Paris (France) 25-27 February 1967
Restatement of convictions
The meeting at Urbino caused a deep crisis within Team 10. The inner circle, now also including De Carlo who organized the Urbino meeting, was unhappy about the fragmentation of the discourse there. Bakema was alone in expressing satisfaction with the course of events. This prompted a reappraisal on the part of the inner circle gathering at Paris. They decided to issue a ‘restatement of convictions’. Alison Smithson collected the incoming letters, commentaries and articles and compiled them into a new introduction to the re-edition of the Primer the following year.
The ‘restatement’ had two clear effects. Firstly, the Team 10 members were no longer willing to hold discussions in an extended group but only among themselves — as a family, as Erskine put it in his letter. This was intended to assure a common frame of reference. Another reason was mentioned by De Carlo, who thought that Team 10 had become too much of a ‘settled’ group, and that that in itself was attracting the wrong kind of people to the meetings. The second effect was an unmistakable politicization of standpoints, unmistakably an outcome of the growing climate of social protest in the world at large, but also prompted by visits and guest lectureships at the American universities, and by the experience that had meanwhile been obtained with design commissions for the welfare state programme especially for building housing and university complexes. The tone was becoming more radical, and world problems were seen as forming the context within which the architect’s work had meaning.
Bakema, after a visit to the USA, wrote as follows: ‘The noise of stencil machine[s] is everywhere, multiplying reports about what has to be done waving in ever wider circles around the problem. . . . problems are not solved in campus buildings and saying hello to visiting professors at student parties. Schools for design should be . . . trying to solve surrounding problems for people who now are not able to solve their problems themselves which always is so with people who are poor. . . . We have to go to the lowest cost housing programme to find where our problem-stone is thrown in the water and we must stay close to that spot because it gives meaning to all other problems. And in the solution for the problem of lowest cost housing, in high density circumstances is the key for total urbanization of the earth.’
With the motto in mind — ‘Think global, act local’ — and with a keen sense for the fashionable nature of student activism, Alison Smithson stated: ‘To march in Cambridge for Vietnam is a screaming steam-age immature political farce; whereas to sandbag a narrow pleasant street in Cambridge to keep out cars so that life can be lived freely there and re-experienced and de-stressed . . . could actually start a movement to change the spirit of the world.’
She continued: ‘If we examine our position in England, we must also in the general political context question whether the Welfare State in choosing so much for us might not be freezing our life pattern. . . . Without free choice bureaucracy becomes a dead load and it is here the politico/planner/ bureaucrat, jammed in the manipulation of the administrative machine now too big for anyone to master, tends to act against any re-establishment of honesty and resultant trust in a community. We are locked in a wasting struggle with Welfare State Bureaucracy in a very similar way to how men were in the size-kind war of 1914/1918. Even at a simple day to day level, useless struggles with committees are wasting valuable working energy and time. Only by the reduction of friction between bureaucracy and action can the available talent be spread as far as it needs to be.’
Similarly, Shadrach Woods wrote: ‘What are we waiting for? To read the news about a new armed attack with even more esoteric weapons, news which comes to us through the air captured by our marvellous transistorized instruments, somewhere deep in our more and more savaged dwellings? Our weapons become more sophisticated; our houses more and more brutish. Is that the balance sheet of the richest civilization since time began? Why wait?’
Despite the clear analyses and ideological critiques the reappraisal yielded, the outcome was that the Team 10 discourse developed something of a split. While members originally saw the creation of the welfare state as a heroic social enterprise worthy of their support, they now criticized its cultural and technocratic character. At the same time, however, they were engaged in work on some huge commissions awarded within the very framework of the welfare state — most notably the new city extension of Toulouse-Le Mirail and the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate.
Dirk van den Heuvel
Team 10 members present
Initiated by De Carlo
Giancarlo De Carlo