Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Embryonic New New Urbanism

Babelia, the weekly cultural supplement of the Spanish newspaper El País, has published an article in which I use the interesting urban strategy of the Rafal High School, by the Grupo Aranea, to point out the overlooked crisis in urban planning that has accompanied the crisis in high-stakes architectural follies (link).

While young architects are taking another look at Brutalism, they are also taking another look at Team X planning ideas, briskly discredited in the 1970s for their glaring social failures, and replaced by the Post Modern nostalgia for the 19th century city, a model that in Spain has become an empty technical formula.

Significantly, Spanish examples of garden-city towers and low-rise clusters from the 1960s , free of streets, cars and city blocks, have generally not suffered the degradation and abandonment of their American and English counterparts, as Spain has so far lacked the underlying social conflicts that fed these failures. And in Spain, public authorities have an enormous power in determining the shape and content of urban development. So why not take another look at those wonderful ideas of the 50s and 60s for creating sophisticated spaces of local, public interaction among neighbors, free of cars and not necessary beholden to commerce or speculation?

El urbanismo de vanguardia contraataca
"Avant-garde Urbanism Counter-attacks"
High School in Rafal, Alicante by Grupo Aranea.
El País, Saturday, September 3, 2011, Babelia, Number 1032, page 18.

Photo by architect Francisco Leiva of Grupo Aranea, showing the standoff between the architects' Rafal High School and a crass urban development in the coastal province of Alicante.

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