Royaumont (France) 12-16 September 1962
The issue of urban infrastructure
The meeting in Royaumont took place in a former abbey, just north of Paris. The location was originally planned to be Otterlo, once again in the Kröller-Müller museum. It was conceived more or less as a continuation of the last congress still held under the CIAM banner in 1959. The Royaumont meeting was prepared by some of the members of the ‘inner circle’. Bakema, Alison Smithson, Voelcker and Woods paid a visit to Erskine in Stockholm, where they also discussed the final draft of the Team 10 Primer. Other topics of discussion were the theme for the Royaumont meeting, drawn up by the Smithsons, and (inevitably) the question of which outsiders should be invited to contribute to the planned discussions.
The theme was defined in the invitation as follows:
Theme of the meeting:
would focus on reciprocal urban infra-structure/building group concepts.
That a communication system can both ‘structure’ and offer ‘building organisation potential’ is clear: what is less clear is how to sustain this building organisation potential in the actual building groups, in the ‘infil’ of the infra-structure.
There seem to be two modes of operation offered:
1. An extension of the infra-structure idea into the building group, so that a system with growth potential is put forward and the ultimate form is not fully anticipated (the STEM idea in its ideal sense);
2. The ‘group form’ idea, in which all the components are directed towards the final pre-conceived form (as Maki’s Shinjuku project).
It being accepted that the general objective of both modes is towards the usefulness and comprehensibility of the group.
It is proposed that the meeting should analyse and discuss projects and ideas of the participants which are concerned with building-group concepts.
the Candilis-Josic-Woods STEM projects (Toulouse and Caen);
the Bakema Split (Spolato) castle idea;
the Erskine group project in Sweden;
the Maki ‘group Form’ idea;
the Tange ‘Tokyo Plan’.
The archives contain several versions of the invitation list. The longest names
forty invitees, not all of whom were to attend the Royaumont meeting. The list
shows that Team 10 was trying to form alliances with like-minded architects
from all over the world, on the main basis of contacts established through the
CIAM congresses. For example, Miquel, Studer and Wogenscky received an invitation.
Although people were invited individually rather than as part of a national delegation as had been the practice in CIAM, it is clear that one sought the fullest possible geographical spread of its contacts. Invitations went to architects in Communist Eastern Europe (Hansen, Polónyi and Soltan), to Scandinavia (Grung and Pietilä) and to Southern Europe (Coderch, Correa, De Oiza and Távora). One list includes Tange, Kikutake, Kurokawa and Maki from Japan, and contact was also sought with Doshi, Alexander and Talati to represent the Indian situation. As to the ‘older’ generation of modern architects, an invitation went, surprisingly, to Le Corbusier (who eventually sent Jullian de la Fuente), to Charles and Ray Eames (who were not really architects), to Costa (on account of his experiences in Brasilia), to Louis Kahn and to Hans Scharoun.
Two new faces in Team 10 who were to become long-term members of the group were the artist-architect Stefan Wewerka from Germany, and Amancio Guedes, a Portuguese architect working in Mozambique who had come into contact with the Smithsons via the South African Theo Crosby, technical editor for Architectural Design. Finally, Giancarlo De Carlo, invited via Coderch, would soon play a central role in Team 10, starting with his organization of the meeting in Urbino.
It was James Stirling who opened the presentations with his building for Leicester University, yet strikingly Alison Smithson’s report of Royaumont in Team 10 Meetings fails even to mention Stirling’s contribution to the Team 10 discussions. Presumably this was partly because Stirling’s presentation was completely unrelated to the theme of the meeting, but also partly due to the animosity that existed between the two.
The central theme of urban infrastructure and the grouping of buildings was directly related to the problem of ‘the greater number’ and the associated questions of identity, change and growth. Most of the participants touched on these issues in their own presentations. Their approaches differed considerably, which occasionally led to angry confrontations. Some participants limited themselves to developing a structure for traffic only, while others presented complete, fully detailed building complexes.
Bakema presented his design for the University of Bochum, an extensive complex conceived as a single building, in an analogy with the Palace of Split. Van Eyck brought a plan (‘Noah’s Ark’) by his favourite student Piet Blom, and explained it in terms of his ‘tree-leaf’ diagram. In so doing Van Eyck tried to demonstrate the inseparable reciprocity between the house and the city, a reciprocity he saw as being expressed in an exemplary, poetic fashion by Blom’s design. His presentation drew a vigorous dismissal, particularly from the Smithsons. Bakema observed in a postscript that, though Blom’s plan might operate as an ‘identifying structure’, it gave insufficient expression to the idea of ‘freedom of choice’. Candilis and Woods presented their large-scale plans for Toulouse and Bilbao, while De Carlo showed a development plan on the outskirts of Milan.
These various presentations raised the question of whether it was possible for an architect to retain control over a plan of that scale, and hence of where architects ought to concentrate their energy and attention. Limiting the design to a general structure or to local interventions capable of developing autonomously in the course of time, would mean risking all kinds of misinterpretation in the elaboration process. However, a fully detailed complex of buildings such as Blom’s scheme or Toulouse-Le Mirail raised a question of whether it was possible for a fully designed complex to fully anticipate changes during or after completion, and a question of whether future residents would be able to inhabit and appropriate the complex in an individual, spontaneous way. Besides the problem of scale, it involved the issues of time and process, and of who should do what.
Besides these issues, a second major group of problems entered the discussion: how to integrate new infrastructure into the existing context. The Smithsons offered studies in Cambridge, London and Berlin. Dean and Richards showed a plan for the redevelopment of Euston Station in London, and Wewerka presented a proposal for the ‘Boulevard Buildings’ with which he aimed to modernize Paris by reinvigorating the city’s boulevards. Wewerka and, to some extent, Dean and Richards, favoured a wholesale integration of new urban building programmes and traffic infrastructure. The Smithsons, by contrast, sought to make ‘minimal’ interventions intended to inject air and space into old cities, so facilitating future developments. These ‘minimal’ interventions were nonetheless substantial and entailed extensive demolition of the old urban fabric, as illustrated by the London Roads Study the Smithsons presented at Otterlo.
The subject of integration similarly revealed a wide diversity of approaches. Participants were clearly struggling with the questions of reconciling the existing urban qualities with the demands of the post-war modernization programmes required by national governments.
Dirk van den Heuvel