Jaqueline Tyrwhitt – José Luis Sert – Ernesto Nathan Rogers: CIAM publication The Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life. London 1952, Cover

© Ashgate Publishing Limited

Continuation of a Planning Tradition: The Social Agenda of the ‘Functional City’

The Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) from 1928 to 1959 was an unconventional working group and a complex laboratory of progressive ideas for the design of the city. Over three decades, CIAM united architects, town planners, artists, historians, sociologists and journalists. Its writings on the ‘Functional City’ in particular were considered the core of modern urbanist theory. In 1952, almost two decades after the famous 4th congress on the ‘Functional City’ in 1933, CIAM published a book entitled The Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life. As a result, not only professional planners, but also interested laypeople could hold in their hands an impressive volume whose suggestive visual language and didactic text contributions addressed the design of the city centre and of urban public spaces and illustrated vividly the new strategy for analyzing and planning a city: a focus on its social and cultural functions. This publication advocated a city space with new qualities that the urbanite would experience spontaneously, creatively, and comprehensively; a city space that would reflect the social composition and intellectual heft of the people who used it. In the collage on the book’s cover, the design for a modern city centre, the ‘heart’ metaphor, and the depiction of a human heart condense into a memorable cipher for the viewer. By defining a stable ‘urban infrastructure’ and designing ‘fixed points’ in the body of the city, the contributors intended to produce an environment that fostered communal living. This “humanized environment”, as CIAM called it, was emerging everywhere where the city was establishing the necessary preconditions. The fact that the spearhead of prewar modernism turned the centre of the city into a topic for discussion in the early 1950s has not raised many questions previously; after all, its view of the city was seamlessly integrated into the comprehensive process of renewing society after the war. In that both issues involved reconsidering fundamental connections such as “the human being and space” or “the human being and technology”, the sets of problems and answers were similar….

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Download PDF