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THE PLAN Journal (TPJ) intends to disseminate and promote innovative, thought-provoking and relevant research, studies and criticism in architecture and urbanism.

The criteria for selecting contributions will be innovation, clarity of purpose and method, and potential transformational impact on disciplinary fields or the broader socio-cultural context.

The ultimate purpose of the TPJ is to enrich the dialog between research and professional fields, in order to encourage both applicable new knowledge and intellectually driven modes of practice. (Maurizio Sabini)

Latest Articles

 Open Access
URBANISM
Article

Urban Hacking. A Nobel Project for the Redundant City

by: conrad-bercah Volume: 1, Issue: 1, doi: 10.15274/ tpj.2016.01.01.06, published: 2016-07-27

In 1963, Constantinos Doxiadis, Buckminster Fuller and Marshall Mc Luhan signed, among others, the little known “Delos Declaration,” which alerted the world that the “problem of expanding urban area may soon outstrip all other problems facing mankind, except that of nuclear war.” In the year 2016, it is clear to most that the “urban meltdown” has indeed outstripped “all other problems facing mankind, ‘including’ the possibility of nuclear war” and the reality of the financial meltdown, of which it is a direct result and from which there is no U-turn. How can we assure that modern cities develop a regenerative relationship to the living world on whose health they ultimately depend?

The current scenario is dominated by the Redundant City whose march cannot be stopped ex-ante, an option not available anymore. What is available are “urban adjustments” that, while staying clear of Renzo Piano’s misguided (and falsely politically correct) rhetoric of urban mending, have a shot at trying to restore a sense of urbanity or “cityness” to constantly growing, shapeless conurbations. “Urban Hacking” argues for a fundamental conceptual shift in the way we organize our urban systems, and for thinking and acting beyond what is considered “sustainable” development. Urban Hacking aims at establishing a healthier relationship between Natur and Kultur. The theory does not rule out radical thinking and in fact sponsors a new attitude towards urban matter based on little talked about modus operandi like demolition, recycling, multi-scaling and urban hacking.

Urban Hacking is identified as a necessary vehicle to set in motion an operative mood that may eventually lead to a Dörfer-Großstadt (metropolis of villages), namely an adjustable planning concept to counter the various redundancies of our time.

 Open Access
URBANISM
Article

China’s Grand Canal. Strategies for Sustainable Urban Development in China

by: Andrea Degli Angeli Volume: 1, Issue: 1, doi: 10.15274/ tpj.2016.01.01.04, published: 2016-07-26

China has had to deal with the huge architectural and urban development challenges created over the past fifty years by the opening up of the country to the global economy and the resulting constant population and economic growth. China’s economic growth model has been based on accelerated consumption and manufacturing, with inevitable and significant environmental and social consequences. The model discussed in this paper seeks to employ the principles of sustainability in a specific urban development context: the massive Beijing-Hangzhou Canal, the longest artificial waterway in the world. The model presented involves the formulation of a macro strategy for the redevelopment of this ancient water system utilizing and adapting highly successful traditional Chinese planning methods for urban, wetland and rural areas. Elements of this model could serve as the basis for effective future Chinese urban development in similar contexts. China has already begun actualizing policies and strategies to address major concerns about environmental and social issues. The proposed model is intended to contribute to this endeavour and to promote sustainable growth in the most populated country in the world. On his return to Venice, Marco Polo described Chinese cities as an earthly paradise. The project outlined in this paper shows that the planning elements that inspired Marco Polo’s admiration are still highly relevant in a country increasingly damaged by inappropriate and standardized international urban development approaches.

 Open Access
THEORY
Article

Towards an Ethical Technique: Reframing Architecture’s "Critical Call" through Hannah Arendt

by: Paul Holmquist Volume: 1, Issue: 1, doi: 10.15274/ tpj.2016.01.01.03, published: 2016-07-15

This paper examines how the critical vocation of architecture might be reclaimed through reconsidering the interrelationship of technique and politics in light of the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. I argue that Arendt’s conception of a fabricated common world that is essential to establishing a properly human sense of reality opens up ways to rethink the constitutive political role of architecture. As a discipline, architecture comprises an "ethical technique" by which to guide the fabrication of the condition of "the common," and to constructively embody the recognition of a primary political reality arising out of human plurality. In so doing, architecture can projectively envisage and prepare for the emergence of a potential politics alternative to the apparatus of capital.

 Open Access
HOUSING
Article

Project Strategies and Evaluation Methods for Contemporary Social Housing

by: Romina Marvaldi , Elisabetta Pani Volume: 1, Issue: 1, doi: 10.15274/tpj.2016.01.01.02, published: 2016-07-15

The deep social transformations occurred in the last decades have deeply affected the patterns of urban living. We start from the hypothesis that residential space should accompany part of the countless stages of our lives and represent the place where individuals and groups can express themselves and realize their desires. In this sense, experimentation on housing plays the dual role of investigation and validation of the hypothesis and is essential for the development of research on domestic and urban space. At the beginning of the 21st century, social housing represents the main field for experimentation.

Social housing is intended as an effective response to an increasing demand of cost-effective houses capable of adapting to change and of embodying the multifarious aspects of contemporary living. In the current architectural scenario, many interesting experimentations on contemporary housing can be observed. The analysis of some of these, conducted during their use, offers the opportunity to evaluate the levels of satisfaction perceived by the inhabitants and their responses to both the dwelling and the urban scale. This process of evaluation is essential to the implementation of new housing strategies, which will replace the obsolete typologies currently used.

The approach proposed in this article starts with post-occupancy evaluation of some case-studies extracted from extensive research on European case-studies realized projects. It then analyzes the results of such evaluation to abstract issues concerning different aspects of contemporary living that could be coped at the design level. This method combines spatial and typological research, issues about housing and planning approaches developed by the promoters of the case-studies discussed. The new housing demand does not solicit a quantitative response: the construction of new buildings or the reconversion of the existing ones into residential space sustain a situation of obsolescence and discontent. Providing quality social housing involves the coordination of multiple actors and synergies.

A new vision on contemporary housing based on a critical revision of existing experimentations is crucial to the definition of a sustainable joint strategy for the future of our cities.

 Open Access
THEORY
Article

Building Portraits

by: Elena Manferdini Volume: 1, Issue: 1, doi: 10.15274/tpj.2016.01.01.01, published: 2016-07-14

Building Portraits is a suite of elevation studies developed by Atelier Manferdini for an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015 called Building the Picture and a subsequent solo show at Industry Gallery in Los Angeles in 2016 called Building Portraits. These 42 drawings were produced during the past two years and they explore the potential of intricate scripted line work depicting building facades. The collection exists simultaneously as architectural research and as autonomous artwork. These drawings can be understood as scaled down reproduction of buildings, and at the same time as full scale printed artifacts. The collection plays with the graphic potentials of woven grids and scripted vector lines, while exploring the canonical relationships of shape vs form, ground vs figure, pattern vs coloration, orientation vs posture. The title of the suite Building Portraits alludes to two distinct disciplines, the field of architectural drawings, building, and the one of fine artistic pictures, portraits. This body of work tries to claim a territory where these two attitudes find a common ground, where pixels and vectors get closer in scale of perception.

 Open Access
EDITORIAL
Editorial

A New Beginning

by: Maurizio Sabini Volume: 0, Issue: 0, Pages: 1 - 2 doi: 10.15274/TPJ-2016-10001, published: 2016-01-22
 Open Access
THEORY
Article

The Absurd Alibi

by: Joseph Godlewski Volume: 0, Issue: 0, Pages: 3 - 10 doi: 10.15274/TPJ-2016-10002, published: 2016-01-28

Generated from a discussion at the Fall 2015 ACSA Conference in Syracuse, New York, this article tackles the very topic of the conference (“Between Autonomous and Contingent Objects of Architecture”). It reflects on projects of autonomy (new and old) asking what they contribute to architecture as a discipline and profession. What, if anything, is at stake in such projects? It discusses some contemporary examples of autonomous and object-oriented theories of architecture. While autonomy originally posed a radical challenge to ways architecture was made and reasoned, this article contends that the critical energy generated with that challenge has been exhausted and replaced with disengaged copies of earlier experiments. It is unclear what insights these newer versions provide to architectural discourse. This article further conjectures that the socio-economic context in which autonomy re-emerges today is fundamentally altered leaving its advocates in a much more precarious position than the exponents of previous iterations of architectural autonomy. It concludes that notions of architectural autonomy are an absurd alibi, incommensurate with a discipline so constrained by social and economic expectations as architecture.

 Open Access
THEORY
Article

Designed and Emergent Tectonics: Resituating Architectural Knowledge

by: Sophia Psarra , Fani Kostourou , Kimon Krenz Volume: 0, Issue: 0, Pages: 11 - 28 doi: 10.15274/TPJ-2016-10003, published: 2016-01-14

Architecture is usually defined through intent while cities come into being out of multiple human actions over a long period of time. This seems to trap us between a view of architecture as authored object, and a view of the city as authorless, evolutionary process. The debate about the autonomous and the contingent object thus, goes back to the separation of architecture from its skill base in craft and building practice that took place in the Renaissance. This separation also includes the operations through which buildings and cities are produced by designers, clients, users, regulatory codes, markets and infrastructures. The resurgence in the debate on the competing claims of autonomy and contingency testifies that since the Renaissance we have failed to develop theories and techniques that address the relationship between authored architecture and authorless contexts. As a result, coupled with commercial forces, recent advancements in digital technology and complexity theory claim architecture and the city as self-organization, dismantling architecture and depriving it from relevance in shaping social capital. If in the Renaissance, architecture was separated from the city, which was the relationship between the ways in which a city was built and the urban fabric? How can we better understand the relationship between the architectural project and the processes that configure the urban structure in which it is situated? This paper argues that for architecture to reclaim its scope as a social discipline it needs to theorise its relationship with the social, the political and the economic processes of its context. 

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