Urbino, Siena, San Marino and Venice (Taly) 1974-2004
Giancarlo De Carlo and the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design
In the mid-1970s Giancarlo De Carlo launched two parallel operations: on the one hand he founded the magazine Spazio e Società, on the other he created ILAUD (International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design), an international workshop formed by a group of European and American universities. With these two initiatives De Carlo sought to lay the foundations for a different approach to architecture, one that would explore issues bound up with the territory, participation, and reuse.
ILAUD (or ILA & UD), the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design, was founded at the University of Urbino in 1974. The new ‘Laboratory’ concerned itself with the transformation of the physical environment; it sought to promote research into new methods and techniques of design and to foster contacts and cultural exchanges between teachers and students in different countries and at different universities. The centre of its activities was to be Urbino but there were also plans to travel to other cities. The official language was English. The organization of its research provided for a series of permanent activities, conducted at the various member universities through the year, and a summer ‘laboratory’ or workshop, where teachers and students would work on a series of thematic projects.
The Laboratory issued a ‘Bulletin’ to keep up contacts between the different universities during the year and present the results of its research projects and experiments. The first summer laboratory was held at Urbino in September-October 1976, with the participation of students and teachers from a number of universities (MIT, Barcelona, Zurich, Oslo, Louvain, Urbino). From the year of its foundation down to 2003 the Laboratory was held each year, in Urbino, Siena, Urbino again, San Marino, and from 1997 on in Venice. The members of ILAUD totalled some thirty American and European universities, for varying periods. The director of the Laboratory in all those years was De Carlo, assisted by Connie Occhialini. In all, well over a thousand students, accompanied by faculty members from the various universities, attended the Laboratory.
Though open to different opinions, varied and contrasting, the Laboratory had a core group made up of members of Team 10. Candilis, Erskine, Van Eyck, Bakema, Hertzberger and Pietilä all participated in various ways. But in reality all of ILAUD’s activities turned on the constant presence of De Carlo, as well as the equally constant but more unobtrusive work of Peter Smithson. While De Carlo defined the major topics of discussion and research, Smithson introduced a series of lateral approaches through the ‘lesser’ project work on gateways, towers, paths, paving, minor buildings, trees and car parks which he conducted at ILAUD every summer (down to 2002). Continuity with Team 10 was secured not only by the dialogue between De Carlo and Smithson but by confirming its objectives and purposes. ILAUD was, in fact, De Carlo’s version of Team 10, enlarged to include new voices, open to universities and students, combining the moral legacy of CIAM and the energies of Team 10. Alison Smithson herself pointed out the continuity between Team 10 and ILAUD, noting that the enlarged circle of invitations to the Urbino meeting in 1966 could be seen as a prelude to the subsequent foundation of ILAUD.
The constitution of a group always involves problems; above all in a case like ILAUD, where De Carlo built a pluralist association with an open programme, characterized by just one exclusion, formalism, and one objective, to develop a new method of design open to the widest possible range of different interpretations. The initial topics of participation and reuse suggested and developed by De Carlo led in time to an emphasis on the activities of ‘reading’ and interpreting the physical environment. Though the group never went so far as to provide a definition with fixed and stereotyped formulas and methods, its special concern with ‘context’, understood in a very broad sense, was one of ILAUD’s most interesting achievements. The method was based on the premise that ‘the transformations of society leave unmistakable marks in physical space’, while the term ‘reading’ was used to mean ‘identifying the signs of physical space, extracting them from its stratifications, interpreting them, ordering them and recomposing them in systems that will be significant for us today.’
Naturally this type of reading ‘has to be carried out with a design-based approach, so as to reveal the past and provide a glimpse of the future’. To the complexity of the real world which it continually confronted, the Laboratory responded with ‘tentative design’, design understood as the investigation of multiple possibilities, and not directed at the production of specific architectural ‘objects’. ‘The project can thus be called ›tentative‹ in the sense that it seeks to achieve a solution through proceeding by trial and error, but also in the sense that it probes the situation it confronts so as to bring out its imbalances and understand how and to what extent it can be changed, without being denatured, and so achieve a new state of equilibrium.’
ILAUD’s political and ideological presuppositions, formulated in the initial statements of principle, sometimes resurfaced at conferences and discussions, with the presence of anarchists such as Danilo Dolce and Colin Ward. But it was De Carlo, with his address at the close of the Summer Laboratory in September 1991, who summed up ILAUD’s purposes, objectives and achievements. Discussing the fall of the Berlin wall, De Carlo recalled his anarchist roots, his opposition to all forms of exploitation, and observed with concern (he who had always opposed ‘the authoritarianism of the communist parties’) the passing away of that ‘political passion’ defined as communism. Its demise, he said, ‘will pave the way for social abuses and lead to the loss of political freedoms won with hard struggles’. However, the demise of values and passions led De Carlo to a renewed belief in architecture: ‘Precisely because the world risks becoming mired ever more deeply in the crisis of values in which it is already floundering, the only reliable frame of reference left is the physical space of the territory. . . . In the territory humanity can continue to find the signs of its past and the symptoms of its future.’
Team 10 members present