Jacobs versus Le Corbusier | Miquel Lacasta Codorniu

Jacobs versus Le Corbusier

The city already cannot be a place thought from the rules, but a life space from the beginning.

To many years have happened since one could have stated the failure of planning the cities in the medium and long term. Probably this system was pertinent at the beginning of the 19th century where still it was possible to plan attending to curves of predictable growths and social stable behaviors. Today at the beginning of the 21st century it is already clear that to create regulations is so absurd as to think that what today is valid, it will be also the day after tomorrow. The city depends in major measure of the behavior and the use of the urban studding, that of the physical specific constitution of every street, every sidewalk, every building. Naturally there are sections of street that restrict a “urban” behavior or undersell a logic of the “common thing” and on the other hand other urban devices favor the development of the identity (both individual and shared) or they help to the bloom of urban events that his inhabitants establish emotional links with his inhabitants and entity.

The managing concept in the science as those of instability, the sensibility to the initial conditions, the bifurcations, the fluctuations, the turbulences, the systems removed from the balance, the self-organization, etc., they can help to handle equally a new theoretical body to think the city more tied to the territory and the landscape, that to the classic urbanism. As the happened in the architecture, the science has been opened for the whole complex network of beginning, theories and mental new structures that allow to advance and to innovate in a new mental territory. From the 60s the disciplines that fluctuate about the so called sciences of the complexity have started a fascinating way, I do not exempt of risks and stumbles, towards a deep comprehension of the nature.

Probably it is time that these new approaches come indeed to the practices proyectuales urban and let’s stop acting as dispensers of programs, edificabilidades and zoning in the shape of boxes of shoes and let’s start thinking about the essence of that one that means the “urban fact”, placing the human being in the center of the interest of the reflection.

In fact already powerful precedents exist in the matter.

In the 60s Jane Jacobs attacks in his book The Death and Life of Great American Cities1, a deep analysis of the city as everything of interrelationships between the inhabitants and the physical and intangible spaces that shape it. The city is the result of the public daily life, a product of the urban domestic thing, called to sustain the life jointly of his citizens and consequently it must not be ordered in agreement to urban development rigid beginning, since the essential nature of the urban thing behaves as an adaptative system that obeys a complex and very particular order.

For Jacobs the city constitutes the most ample range of possibilities of choice, especially having in it counts the diversity that on her must converge, and therefore it has to of behaving as an opened system capable of offering different answers before determining bankers. The authoress is convinced in the way of life urban, based on a mixture of uses and forms, capable of constructing a substratum of enormous cultural wealth. The maximum expression of the urban thing is the street, understood this one, as a resource for the sustenance of the collective life.

The vision that has Jacobs of the street is like a tangled ballet in which each of his dancers and set of dances demonstrate clearly his distinctive elements, which miraculously give vigor and density and specificity to the daily reality. This set of movements compose the quite harmonic one and arranged in a level of complexity that does that these movements never repeat themselves to yes same in any place and therefore they do not represent a series of predictable actions, but rather a set of improvisations regulated by a logic superior to the individual logic, in many cases a self-organization said the contemporary terms of the sciences of the complexity.

Jacobs’s vision is opposed, as she itself says, to the current model of planning. But which is this model? Whom does it attack only to begin the book? The assault is directly directed the Decentrists2 as them Catherine Bauer called. But beyond the local, as like that planners the own Jacobs confesses it, the assault is directed directly the ” man by the idea more dramatic of how to realize correctly this anti-urban planning and .3 to apply it to citadels of ignominy ” one is refiriendo to Him Corbusier and to the Ville Radieuse.

The Ville Radieuse according to Jacobs is a Utopian dream based on the disposition of skyscraper in a park, contrary to the version degraded of this idea proclaimed by the Decentrists, which low buildings were arranging on a green tapestry. The density that Le Corbusier was claiming in his dreams -1.200 inhabitants for acre4– takes a fancy totally brutally to Anglo-Saxon eyes, even for Jacobs that her qualifies of fantasticly high – in terms of prone to fantasizing that not of approval, evidently-.

This means that this dream can manage to make 95 % of the territory free in the shape of park, due to the fact that this density centers in very high buildings. The Utopia of Him Corbusier was a condition for what he was calling the maximum individual freedom, though it was looking like a freedom not to do too many other things that to be liberated of the ordinary responsibility of every individual. In the Ville Radieuse ironically Jacobs affirms presumably nobody is going to have to play the role of a major brother, nobody is going to have to battle against the planning, nobody is going to be tied.

The Decentrists still Le Corbusier is fleeing despavoridos of the Ville Radieuse. His reaction was and still it continues being, according to Jacobs, as if a group of progressive teachers was falling sick with an orphanage and nevertheless, ironically the Ville Radieuse comes from the City Garden. Le Corbusier accepted the fundamental image of the City Garden, superficially ultimately, and worked to make her practical in conditions of high density. Actually the Ville Radieuse and the City Garden share the ideas popularized by the sectarian followers of the Decentrists, of the super apple, the projected neighborhood, the planning without changes and the lawn, lawn, lawn, under the appearance of the social responsibility and the functionality of the planning.

The city dreamed for Corbusier has had an enormous impact in our cities and has influenced projects that go from the social housing up to office blocks, assuming the superficialness of the beginning of the City Garden and applying them to the high density. But to criterion of Jacobs, the Ville Radieuse hides also other “marvels”. The city dreamed Le Corbusier is absolutely thought for the car as integral part of his scheme. Certainly this idea was exciting and totally new in the decade of the 20 and the 30 dels last century and because of it it is arranged from big rolled arteries, cutting the maximum number of crossings between streets since as Le Corbusier “was the enemy of the traffic”5, it planned underground streets for the heavy traffic and of services and evidently as it the City was doing Garden, it eliminated the sidewalks.

According to Jacobs la Ville Radieuse it was like a wonderful mechanical toy. His conception like architectural work had a dazzling clarity, simplicity and harmony. It was really tidy, very visual, easy to deal. He was saying everything in a flash, as a good advertisement. This vision and his impertinent symbolism has been irresistible for planners, promoters, designers and even for the mayors.

 It drags to zonificadores progressives, who write regulations to encourage builders without project to reflect, though only it is a bit, the dream. It does not have importance cuan vulgar or wretch is the design, cuan lugubrious and useless it is the space opened – referred to the parks-, cuan bored they are the sights, if it is capable of imitating the shout of Le Corbusier “looks what I have done!”. As if it was the visualization of a great ego, this type of projects explains for yes the same success of someone. “But in terms of how the city works, as the City Garden, it does not explain any more than lies”.6

Today in contemporary terms, the urban reason has fallen down of Jacobs’s side, though I am sure that Him Corbusier had been more of agreement with Jacobs, of what we could imagine.

Miquel Lacasta Codorniu. Doctor architect

Barcelona, setember 2012


1 Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Modern Library Edition, Random House, 1993, (1961), Nueva York

2We can translate Decentrists as the decentralizing ones according to the appellative one that Catherine Bauer gives to a group of urban extraordinarily effective and dedicated planners composed by Lewis Mumford, Clarence Stein and in his last times Henry Wright. These adopted of way enthusiast the ideas of the city garden of the Englishman Ebenezer Howard and of the Scot Sir Patrick Geddes. Succinctly the base idea was consisting of decentralizing the big cities, dispersing to the inhabitants and the companies in enormous urban fabrics based on the imagery of the city garden.

3 op. cit., JACOBS, p. 29

4 1200 inhabitants for acrid sound 2970 inhabitants for hectare and 297.029 inhabitants for square kilometre. To be able to compare, Barcelona takes approximately 15.000 inhabitants as a square kilometre.

5 op. cit., JACOBS p. 31

6 op. cit., JACOBS p. 32

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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