This past Thursday, Cornell University was happy to welcome lecturer Pier Vittorio Aureli to our campus in Rome. His talk, entitled ‘City as a Practical Form’ was a detailed look into the effects of five discreet historic architectural interventions on urban fabric, both the specific city in which they were implemented and the notions of city organization from that point on.
Aureli broke his argument into five examples ranging from Rome in 1508 to Paris (1604), Berlin (1823), Vienna (1919) and finally ending with London in 1960. Each example establishes a new typology of organization and priorities within the modern city and, more importantly, demonstrates a shift in the notions and motivations of government. This is due, in part, to the choice of projects. They are all large scale, state sponsored (with the exception of the Fun Palace in London) building initiatives in the urban center and as such are all manifestations of the governing bodies that initiated them.
I will not go into detail outlining Aureli’s argument, partly because I would then have to voice my objections to it, but mostly out of fear of making a mess of what was otherwise a very succinct and thought provoking lecture. Additionally I would like to say how happy I was to see a lecture dealing with these topics at a Cornell campus. Despite being the college of architecture, art and planning there is very rarely any discourse that bridges the divide between the college’s departments, a somewhat disconcerting notion if you consider their relevance to one another.
Aureli has taught at Colombia University in New York, the AA in London, as well as the Delft University of Technology and the Berlage Institute. He is also the co-founder of DOGMA with Martino Tattara. If you are interested in learning something more substantial about Aureli he has several books including “The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture” (March 2011) and “The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Capitalism”(July 2008) to name two. You can also find an article written by him for Log in pdf format (below) or, if you speak french, a lecture he gave a the Centre Pompidou in October of 2009 (also below).