<span class="tytul"><span class="dquo">„</span>The Athens Charter” – a review of the issues and the question of the contribution of Polish architects</span>

The Athens Charter” – a review of the issues and the question of the contribution of Polish architects


In the second half of the 20th century, the „Athens Charter” was the most important programme for the reconstruction of destroyed cities, the expansion of existing ones and the construction of new ones. The CIAM propaganda claimed it was a revolutionary document, but both its realistic and utopian proposals were put forward by earlier authors. The „Charter’s” ideological roots were in the thoughts of social activists pointing to poor housing conditions in large cities, Patrick Geddes’ urban research and reform programs and utopian plans for new cities developed from Ebenezer Howard, Arthur Sorio y Mata, Gonzales de Castillo, Tony Garnier to Nikolai Miliutin. Also for the extreme ideas of Le Corbusier, his so-called Voisin plan, precedents can be found in the conceptions of Werner Hagemann, Karl Scheffler and Peter Behrens. The main theses of the „Charter” focused on treating the city as a set of its basic functions: living, working, leisure and communication. At the same time, it was postulated that these functions should be separated from each other. Extreme interpretations of these postulates would have been unacceptable if it had not been for the destruction of cities during the Second World War and the process of building new towns accelerated by post-war prosperity. In the political, economic and social situation after the end of the war it became possible to adopt radical solutions. Meanwhile, the process of criticizing the „Athens Charter” intensified, especially after the demolition of a modernist housing estate in Saint Louis. The currently formulated urban planning programmes with traditionalist principles (the so-called new urbanism) are alternatives that do not exclude the possibility of maintaining the validity of some of the proposals of the IV CIAM Congress.

Dr. habil. Cezary Was, wascezar@​gmail.​com, https://​orcid​.org/​0​0​0​0​-​0​0​0​2​-​5​1​6​3​-​9​248
Assistant Professor at the Institute of Art History, University of Wroclaw. Curator of the Museum of Architecture. Author of the books: Antynomie współczesnej architektury sakralnej (Antinomies of the Contemporary Sacred Architecture, 2008), Architektura a dekonstrukcja. Przypadek Petera Eisenmana i Bernarda Tschumiego (Architecture and Deconstruction. The case of Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi, 2015) and dozens of articles on phenomena of the ancient and modern culture.

Przepraszamy, ten wpis jest dostępny tylko w języku Amerykański Angielski.

The Athens Charter” – a review of the issues and the question of the contribution of Polish architects


Helena Syrkus during the 4th CIAM Congress. In the photo on the left Siegfried Giedion (standing), on the right: Le Corbusier (seated). Photo from GTA, ETH Zurich, Karl Hubacher documents. Courtesy of GTA Archiv

The „Athens Charter”, which was a summary of the CIAM Congress (Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne) in July 1933, became the most influential programme after the end of the Second World War for the reconstruction of destroyed cities, the development of existing ones and the construction of new ones. Until recently, its preparation, publication and influence was surrounded by a large number of unexplored circumstances. Current research has changed this situation and it is now possible to take a new look at the document and reflect on its future. Economic needs after the end of the Second World War forced a simplified interpretation of the document, which concerned both its practical application and the way in which it was presented. Now, with the archival research of Eric Mumford, John Robert Gold, Thomas Flierl and Martin Kohlrausch, it is possible to better characterize its various ideological roots, to show multiple aspects of content and to reject one-sided assessments. The knowledge of the circumstances in which the Athens Charter was created is also altered by the publications analysing the correspondence of the participants of the Fourth Congress. Getting to know the detailed causes of some events shows the differences in the environment previously presented as homogeneous. 1 The presentation of complex issues of „Athens Chart” prompts also to recall a contribution of Polish architects in its creation.

Causes and circumstances of the establishment of the Athens Charter

There are several groups of reasons why the CIAM has taken up the topic of urban planning. The first of these groups concerns the situation of large cities with traditional structures, which developed rapidly in the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. In particular, the connection of the cities with the operation of industrial production centres in them, as well as the general economic expansion caused numerous problems, the most important of which were: overcrowding, unfavourable housing conditions of the poorer strata of society, but also increasing traffic difficulties related to the increase in motor vehicle traffic. These problems were noticed mainly by architects who exhibited the ability to see new phenomena in civilization and culture, especially those who gathered together in the CIAM. The second group of causes therefore includes the emergence of young urban planners interested in new ideas and the taking over in 1930 of the chairmanship of the CIAM by Cornelis van Eesteren, an architect associated with the De Stijl group and, from 1929, the director of the City Development Department (Afdeling Stadsontwikkeling) in the Public Works Office of Amsterdam (Dienst der Publieke Werken). 2

The third group of reasons for the creation of the „Athens Charter” includes the leftist beliefs of Marta Stam from the Netherlands, Hannes Meyer and Hans Schmidt (both from Switzerland), who in the early 1930s together with Ernst May travelled to the USSR to take part in the design of several new cities, including Magnitogorsk. 3 Already during the creation of the „Declaration of La Sarraz”, the founding document of the CIAM of 28 June 1928, it could be seen that architecture was understood in this millieu as a task comparable to construction of a new political system. 4 The second CIAM Congress in Frankfurt in 1929 under the influence of May, and the third congress in Brussels in 1930 dealt with social housing issues and created inspiration for the idea of taking up by the next congress the topic of the city, in which new functional problems would be solved. 5 Moscow was chosen as the venue for the Fourth Congress. The preparatory stages were the meetings of the CIRPAC (Le Comité International pour la Réalisation des Problèmes d’Architecture Contemporaine) in Berlin in 1931 and Barcelona in 1932. 6

Fragments of Helena Syrkus work make it possible to understand the political climate of the meeting in Berlin. 7 According to her account, one of the main points of the meeting was a speech by Ernst May, who presented the desiderata concerning the organization of the Fourth Congress in Moscow. Moreover, he presented a paper on „extraordinary possibilities of planning and realization of new cities in the USSR”, which „became the culminating point of the meeting - convinced the most sceptical participants of the congress, and winged the enthusiasts”. 8 May presented the theoretical plans of Gorky, Magnitogorsk and Stalingrad by Nikolai Milutin. 9 Nowadays, these concepts are considered to be an extreme manifestation of modernism in urban planning. May also presented variants of the development of Moscow by Moisey Ginzburg, plans of the May’s team to build 24 hundred thousand satellite cities surrounding Moscow and a long series of other projects by Mikhail Borsch, Mikhail Ochitovich, Nikolai B. Sokolov 10, Vyacheslav Vladimirov, Ivan I. Leonidov up to the plan of the house factory. 11 The audience’s reactions to May’s statement were enthusiastic. As Helena Syrkus wrote: „The leitmotif of his reading: What is happening now in Russia is of historical importance - it was warmly applauded. Le Corbusier, affirming the then Soviet reality, called the USSR the promised land of technology”. 12 H. Syrkus further recalls that the second five-year plan envisaged the construction of 400 new cities in the USSR and that in Moscow the Centrosoyuz building by Le Corbusier was erected in 1930 13. The discussion at the CIRPAC meeting in 1931, including a speech by Szymon Syrkus, indicated that the architects of the CIAM intend to play a major political role in the near future. 14 The conclusion of the discussion of the meeting in Berlin by Syrkusowa was: „The Moscow congress promised to be a great event”. 15

Accelerated industrialisation in the USSR, resulting from ideological reasons, forced the construction of new urban centres. This situation was part of the problems arising from the unregulated development of European and American cities, and at the time created a research issue common to the entire CIAM milieu concerning the definition of the main deficiencies in the spatial organisation of existing cities as a consequence of presenting possible ways of eliminating the growing deficiencies and ultimately creating a general basis for the construction of new cities. As Thomas Flierl wrote, „at some point in history there was a strategic convergence between two unequal partners: the international Neues Bauen movement, represented by the CIAM, on the one hand, and the Soviet policy of modernisation and industrialization within the framework of the first five-year plan, on the other”. 16 The CIAM archive at the Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich holds a telegram of 27 November 1930 with an invitation to hold a congress in Moscow from the Presidium of the Central Council of Housing Cooperatives in Moscow. 17 In December 1932, a delegation of the CIAM, represented by van Eesteren and Giedion, travelled to Moscow. 18 On their way to Moscow, they stopped in Warsaw, where they presented their proposals concerning the planned course of the congress. During their five-day stay in Moscow, the programme and organizational matters were agreed upon and the congress was scheduled for June 1933. 19 Following van Eesteren’s return to Amsterdam, detailed recommendations were made to the CIAM groups in each country and passed on to all potential participants in the congress in January 1933. 20 Each national group was given the task of presenting three standardised plans showing the divisions of the city according to their functions, as well as the communication patterns in the city and its region and the image of other relations between the city and its region. Such objectives resulted from the existing difficulties in the functioning of the cities and the hitherto attempts to solve them, and they also stimulated many urban planners to organize the knowledge about unresolved issues. Also, earlier CIAM meetings were carefully prepared, but none of the congresses were based on such a great cognitive effort. Therefore, it is likely that both the seriousness of the problem and the efforts made to solve it were the reason for the correct identification of many troublesome phenomena of city organization and the rationality of recommendations on the way to eliminating the problems. Intensive preparations for the congress in Moscow at this stage clashed with behind-the-scenes political changes in the USSR, which led to a profound change in communism in this country, the cancellation of the congress in Moscow and, in the final analysis, can be considered as an introduction to the Great Terror, which took place in the 1930s. 21 The chronology of some of the events connected with the preparation of the congress was saturated with contradictions at that time, because both the Soviet participants and especially the western members of the CIAM did not have proper information about the changes taking place in the governmental structures. 22

The episode of the Palace of the Soviets

Even Flierl’s detailed research did not lead to any knowledge about the link between the Le Corbusier project’s failure in the Palace of the Soviets competition and the cancellation of the congress in Moscow, but the events concerning these two cases took place simultaneously, and the failure of Le Corbusier and the selection of Boris Iofan for the realisation of the project best illustrates the reasons for the failure of the Moscow congress. The intricacies of both cases should be ignored, as they do not lead to clear explanations, but by focusing on the basic events, one can get a certain picture of the reasons for the failure of both ideas. Therefore, summarizing the relation between the events taking place to the most necessary dimensions, it should be recalled that on 28 December 1931 Gleb Krzhizhanovsky, a Soviet engineer of Polish origin, 23 announced the results of the competition jury, which rejected the project of the building of the USSR Supreme Council (the so-called Palace of the Councils or the Palace of the Soviets) by Le Corbusier. The jurors indicated as awarded the projects of: Boris M. Iofan, 24 Ivan Zoltowski (from a strongly Russianized Polish family) and Hector Hamilton (a British architect practising in New Jersey). In the latter case, the researchers point to the then attempts to establish diplomatic contacts between Soviet Russia and the USA and the involvement of American industrialists in the development of Soviet industry as the reason for his choice.

Monumental tendencies were already visible in Iofan’s first project, but in subsequent versions of the Palace they were extensively developed and eventually adopted even absurd formulas. Initially, Ivan Zoltowski’s project, which, like many other proposals, referred to historical models and increased the size of all the elements, also received an award equivalent to that of Iofan. Hector Hamilton’s project was the only one in the group of distinguished works that used aesthetics without direct references to old architecture. The last version of Iofan’s project, drafted in the summer of 1932, presents the changes that have taken place in the aesthetics and politics in just two years. There is no doubt that the huge monument to Lenin, which was to be placed at the top of the building, was in an ideological sense a monument to Stalin’s power. The propaganda effect obtained acted primarily for the benefit of the initiator and the sources clearly indicate that it was Stalin’s words addressed to Iofan and sounding „Let’s get carried away” that were an encouragement that was taken with all seriousness. As a place of construction, the square where the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour stood was chosen, the work of Konstantin Thon completed in 1893 and in Stalin’s day it was referred to as a „great samovar”. On 21 July 1931 it was decided to demolish the building, which was done in the second half of 1931. 25

The official invitation to the CIAM secretariat to hold the congress in Moscow was dated 16 March 1932. So when the CIRPAC meeting took place in Barcelona on March 29-31, in order to refine the plans of the Moscow congress, the CIAM leadership had to address the issue of the competition for the seat of the USSR Supreme Council. The first form of protest was a CIRPAC’s telegram to Stalin on March 5, 1932, 26 while the broader version was a French-language letter of 28 April 1932 signed by van Eesteren and Giedion and provided with an annex with a photomontage 27 juxtaposing Hamilton’s design with other „pseudo-modern” designs: the upper part of the document shows the Fritz Höger Church at Hohenzollernplatz in Berlin, and the lower corner shows the Karstadt department store in Berlin-Neuköln in 1929. 28

The CIAM management, including Le Corbusier, but also a wider circle of architects, could not understand the sense of the changes in Soviet communism, where the ideas of direct democracy or even the resignation from the state were abandoned in favour of a much more common dictatorship. The power of left-wing sympathies and belief in the sense of revolution in Russia was so great that it took decades to change the attitude of the western left towards the USSR due to the research on totalitarianism and the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book. As noted by H. Syrkus, during the CIRPAC meeting in Barcelona, it was widely believed that the arrival of a large number of avant-garde architects in Moscow at that time would help to maintain the political position of modernist ideas in the Soviet state. 29

The history of the CIAM milieu began with an international protest against the rejection of Le Corbusier’s project for the Palace of Nations in 1927, but in the case of the Palace of the Soviets there was no wider protest. Le Corbusier himself showed understanding for the situation in this matter and in a comment to his Œuvre Complète (1929-1934) stated that at the beginning of the construction of a new civilization in Russia, it is understandable that the new authorities demand more statues, columns and frontones for the people than smooth, impeccably clean lines and planes. The Moscow verdict was prudent from his point of view and he wrote: „I recognise it. I bow my head”. 30 Le Corbusier, apart from outlining the draft telegram that Giedion sent to Stalin on 5 March 1932, also wrote an extensive letter on 13 March 1932 to Anatoly Lunacharsky, who was Minister of Education (People’s Commissar) until 1929, and after his dismissal from office tried to maintain his position in the circles of power. 31 The author of the letter never learned that the jury’s decisions were accompanied by the opinions of Lazar Kaganovich, Stalin’s closest collaborator, that „Corbusierism is the aesthetics of the upper layers of the bourgeoisie”, while the Centrosoyuz building built by the same architect is a „fat sow on thin legs”. Undoubtedly, the project of the palace by Le Corbusier, now known from its many drawings and models, was one of his most outstanding achievements, with a clear bow to the hosts in the form of developing the ideas of Russian constructivists. The issue of the competition was one of the manifestations of ideological and political changes that led to the „postponement” of the congress in Moscow.

On 16 March 1932, Jakov L. Weinschenker, acting under the authority of Georgy (Yury) Pyatakov, Vice-President of the Supreme Council of the National Economy (WSNCh) and other representatives of the authorities, sent another invitation to the CIAM to organize a congress in Moscow. German architects working in Russia and centred around Hans Schmidt tried to get involved in its organization: Hans Blumenfeld, Fred Forbát, Eugen Kaufmann, Margarette Schütte-Lihotzky and Margrit Wyss-Vögtlin. So, although there were no clear signs of a crisis in the preparations in March 1932, a series of events took place in the summer and autumn of that year, which pointed to an intensification of internal tensions among both the top authorities and those directly involved in the planning of the congress. 32 It should be recalled, however, that, what was already mentioned above, in December 1932, a several-day visit to Moscow by Giedion and van Eesteren took place, which gave the impression that there were no obstacles to the continuation of the congress. The situation changed rapidly just before the spring 1933, when on 10 March, Stalin sent a letter to the members of the Politburo proposing to postpone the Congress. 33 As a result of Stalin’s pressure, on 20 March 1933 the Politburo adopted a decision to „postpone” the congress. In a letter dated 22 March 1932, Weinschenker, as chairman of the Organizational Commission on the Soviet side, informed Giedion that due to insufficient preparations of the Soviet side, the congress it would be not possible to hold it in 1932. 34 The alternative date was not clearly indicated, but it was meant the following year. 35

At this stage of the organisation of the congress, the management of the CIAM considered it impossible to change the date and at the ad hoc meeting of the CIRPAC in Paris on 20-24 April, the proposal to move the congress to Warsaw was considered. 36 Marcel Breuer, who was replacing Walter Gropius on these days, proposed organising a congress on a cruise ship between Marseille-Piraeus (Athens)-Marseille in order to facilitate closer ties between the participants. 37 Since Christian Zervos, a Greek art historian who had been publishing „Cahiers d’art” magazine in Paris since 1926, was among the potential participants of the congress, he directed the organizers to his brother Stamos, who worked in the Paris branch of Neptos, the owner of the steam vessel Patris II 38. Le Corbusier easily managed to complete the formalities. After notification of this decision to all potential participants, the congress took place during a ship trip from 29 July to 13 August 1933.

The course of the Fourth CIAM Congress 

As described by Le Corbusier in his version of the Athens Charter: „A beautiful cruise ship leads [the congress] over four sunny summer days across three seas - French, Italian and Greek - to Athens. (…) A moment of rest allows members to have private conversations surrounded by impressive architecture and nature: in Athens Acropolis, Delphi, Delos, Olympia and the Cyclades”39. The detailed account of the congress was created by Szymon Syrkus, who recorded the following events on an ongoing basis. 40 The elaboration of this account based on the research of sources 41 and own memories is contained in Helena Syrkus’ books. 42 The reports of the two participants, fascinated by Le Corbusier, conceal the tensions and divisions that occurred during the discussions and the drafting of the final documents and instead strengthen the conviction of collective enthusiasm and consensual cooperation. Important differences within the group of congress participants were brought to light by Gold, who, apart from re-examining the documents preserved in the CIAM archives in Paris, London, Montreal and Harvard University, also spoke personally with several people involved in CIAM activities, such as Ernő Goldfinger, known for his radicalism, who built the headquarters of the British Communist Party at King Street in Coven Garden. 43

H. Syrkus in her description meticulously presents the list of people participating in the congress 44and the achievements of individual national groups. 45 Only this simple list can lead to further research, since the personal and professional lives of many of the main participants were marked by the political tragedies of Europe in the 1930s shortly after the convention. The dispersion of participants around the world also affected the members of May’s group in the USSR. His job opportunities in the USSR ended in 1933, and since he could not return to Germany as a Jew, he emigrated first to Tanganyika and then to Kenya, where in 1939 he was interned by the British and suspected of being a German spy. 46 The CIAM Vice President Josep Lluís Sert was declared incapable of practising his profession by General Franco’s government and emigrated to the United States in June 1939. S. Syrkus was arrested on October 30, 1942 by the German occupation authorities in Warsaw and was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was imprisoned until January 18, 1945, and then evacuated to other camps until his release on May 3, 1945. These stories create a strong contrast with the luxurious cruise ship journey, especially if we recall fragments of the account of S. Syrkus:

1 August: we cross the Corinthian Canal and land in the Piraeus: wonderful cars take us to the Hotel (…) in the evening the illumination of the monuments of the Acropolis, seen from the terrace of the beautiful villa of Mr. Dragoumis. (…). Greece welcomed us with stunning hospitality. I won’t describe the banquets - they were too wonderful. 47

The character of the words by the Syrkus, similar to the emphatic enunciations of Le Corbusier, emphasizing the enthusiasm of the participants, the spirit of cooperation and community of beliefs, was part of a general strategy of presenting the achievements of the CIAM as being the result of reliable, objective and scientific research. According to this attitude, the results of the congress should be universally accepted, unless there is bad will and backwardness on the other side. As S. Syrkus noted: „When Le Corbusier called at one of the banquets: „C’est l’Acropole qui a fait de moi un révolté”, the dean of the Architecture Department of the Athens Polytechnic made a toast… for death to academism”. 48

On the one hand, there is a need for rebellion, on the other hand, the main enemy is academism. Few participants of the congress (such as Edwin Maxwell Fry, Ernő Goldfinger, but also Aalvar Aalto) interpreted certain inclinations manifested during the congress as an expression of national or individual temperaments. In this situation, one can draw the first line of division: between the alleged objectivity and unity of beliefs and group or even individual inclinations of particular persons. Even assuming that it cannot be denied that the observations based on the research of specific cities are correct, it should be noted that some solutions over-exposed the necessity to break with the status quo. While more traditional urban plans aimed at preserving the character of the city resulting from its long development, some participants tended to deprive the city of its historic centre, separate its various functions or lead express-ways outside the urban area. The discrepancies in the main objectives were also accompanied by lesser predilections by individual groups and persons, which was recounted by Maxwell Fry. 49 The divisions he saw make it possible to state that some participants, especially Le Corbusier, needed the congress in order to develop their oratory skills (not always on the subject), others were fascinated by the learning process itself, and there were also those who sought to draw conclusions of the practical and current nature, while others were heading for the distant future. Although the congress lacked the most committed German and Soviet communists, and the editors of the declaration avoided using vocabulary that might have brought to the congress suspicion of the extremely political nature of the debates, in the left-wing spectrum of other participants there was also a division into more and less radical views. Therefore, when criticism was made of the ownership fragmentation of urban land, the participants refrained from using the word „expropriation” and replaced it with „land mobilization”. 50 This self-restraint has rarely been disrupted, but left-wing tendencies have, for example, been evident in the speech by Rudolf Steiger, who, referring to the situation in Zurich, stated that it is a city „overwhelmed by mountains and rich people”. 51Political divisions were clearly visible in the Italian group, in which Pierro Bottoni was definitely distinguished by his left-wing views, while Giuseppe Terragni was a declared fascist. However, the manifestation of extreme political views among the participants did not contribute to solving by the researchers the problem of relations between modernist architecture and totalitarian regimes. Not many conclusions for this issue can be drawn also from the research on Le Corbusier’s admiration initially for the USSR, and later for Hitler and Mussolini.

The decisive part of all the statements focused on objectified messages, but their form, standardised by van Eesterein’s requirements, imposed an understanding of the city in functional terms, which ignored the values resulting from historical urban development. Despite their declaratory orientation towards the values of the common good, communities with a more organic and cultural character lost their significance in favour of communities governed as homogeneous masses. The „technical”, 52 or „engineering” nature of the discussions on the ship leads to the thesis that the objectives of the Fourth Congress have joined the ideology of biopolitics, where the decisive value is the satisfaction of basic needs of people living in communities. It is therefore not unreasonable that van Eesteren required to present the cities according to a specific questionnaire and in three boards, which were to present the city’s division into residential, work and leisure areas (the first board), urban transport (the second board) and regional location (the third board). Such principles of presentation were based on previous urban studies (e.g. by Patrick Geddes) and van Eesteren’s own work, but also directed analyses and subsequent conclusions towards strengthening functional divisions, including the separation of factory districts from housing and leisure areas, and the division of transport routes according to their use by pedestrians and different modes of transport and communication. It is only now that the problem can be considered: was the strengthening of these divisions a necessity or a contribution of urban planners to the creation of a civilisation excessively saturated with rationality, science and technology? Was urban planning understood in this way without any negative consequences? Some of the promoters of highly rationalised urban planning, such as Sigfried Giedion or Lewis Mumford, modified their views as early as in the 1940s and pointed out that overcoming some difficulties in the sphere of collective existence does not protect against the emergence of new problems resulting from the adopted sanation solutions.

The congress presented 34 cities divided not only according to their internal zones and utility structures, but also according to their dominant functions, i.e.: metropolises, administrative and residential cities, industrial port cities, leisure centres, cities with mixed functions and new centres. 53 The meeting began on 29 July 1933 with speeches by van Eesteren, Giedion and Le Corbusier. Van Eesteren’s speech, in particular, left no doubt that the theme was „functional city”, the participants would present criticism of the existing state and the postulates would concern the future. As noted by H. Syrkus: „The conclusions of the Congress will go in the direction of the demand for a complete reorganization of cities and regions. All other measures seem to us to be too weak and therefore insufficient”. 54 The lack of representatives of the „May’s Brigade” from the USSR did not negatively influence the radicalism of the participants in the meeting, but the pressure resulting from the confrontation with the representatives of the state, which decided to focus on industrialization and urbanization, decreased. In this situation, looking into the distant future gained certain limits resulting from the political conditions of functioning of cities mainly in Western Europe and the United States. On 30 July, representatives of 18 national groups 55 began to present their analyses, which focused mainly on criticism of deficiencies and chaos. Gold divided the course of the meeting into several stages: the cruise from Marseille (29 July - 1 August), stay in Athens (2-4 August), return time (10-13 August) and the closing session in Marseille (14 August). In the hall of the Athens Polytechnic, boards with city plans were displayed, and at the same time, on August 1-10, an attempt was made to draw conclusions from the discussions. 56


Editing of the final documents of the Fourth CIAM Congress

The authorship of the Athens Charter cannot be established. Any compromise on this matter leads to erroneous conclusions. The only accurate and logically correct solution is to leave this issue unresolved. The author of the first version of the Fourth Congress resolution was Le Corbusier 57 and he also edited the final text which, after its publication in 1943, made the official versions less visible. 58 The right to collective intellectual property of the documents presented in that edition was partially preserved, since „Le Groupe CIAM-France” was named as its author. Le Corbusier gave the conclusions and resolutions of the Congress a catchy title of the „Athens Charter” and divided them into 95 theses, each of which was accompanied by a comprehensive commentary by him. At the same time, the actual author hid his personal contribution to the creation of this publication very poorly. However, the subsequent fate of the work obliterated this thread of authorship and it became known as the „Athens Charter” of the CIAM. The problem begins with the fact that at every stage of the preparation of the future CIAM urban planning charter, a group of team-workers took part in its production. Therefore, a similar number of arguments can be put forward in support of the thesis that Le Corbusier was the author of the charter, as well as the opposite thesis that it was a collective effort. It is now possible to better collate the sources and various opinions that contribute to a new perspective on the CIAM congress’ final document editing process. It is now possible to better collate the sources and various opinions that contribute to a new perspective on the CIAM congress’ final document editing process.

According to H. Syrkus’ relation the teamwork for the formulation of results was started in Athens on August 1-10. 59The main opinions were originally expressed in German by Giedion, Moser, Steiger and van Eesteren and translated into French by H. Syrkus on an ongoing basis. 60 The task was difficult: „to harmonise the vision of Le Corbusier and the experience-based moderation of van Eesteren”. 61 On 13 August on board of „Patris II” a group of documents was approved at the last plenary meeting. They can be considered as a set of official congress declarations after the details have been finalised on 16 August. 62 Already after the congress, the prepared proposals were sent to Le Corbusier to Paris with a request for supplementation, which he did not only by correcting the document in terms of language, but also by introducing substantive corrections (before 3 October 1933). Similar refinements were made in Zurich by Moser, Steiger and Giedion. The combination of the two French versions was sent for publication. 63 However, these are arrangements that only apply at this stage.

The French version of the documents (known as Constatations) and the Greek version were published in three issues of the journal „Texnika Xronika” („Τεχνικά Χρονικά. Επίσημον Όργανον του Τεχνικού Επιμελητηρίου της Ελλάδος”) in November 1933. (No. 44, 45, 46, pp. 1183-1188). The German version appeared in September 1934 as an annex to the „Schweizerischen Bauzeitung”. 64 The main documents were also published in Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Polish magazines. Sert published the English version of the final conclusions in his book „Can Our Cities Survive”. 65 All these publications did not reflect the collected and presented research material, so national groups were asked to make a further effort to provide Rudolf Steiger and Wilhelm Hess with materials that would enable them to publish a comprehensive volume documenting the cognitive achievements of the participants of the congress. The intention to publish such a study was to be realised before the next CIAM Congress planned for 1937, but it did not take place by that time. John Gold described in detail the many years of effort of various people involved in a project that never succeeded. 66 Also the next CIAM Congress planned for 1939 did not have a sufficient effect on bringing the matter of publication to fruition. Instead, two prominent members of the CIAM published books, which in both cases were permeated with their personal views. In 1941, Le Corbusier and Sert completed the editing of their versions of the IV Congress’ achievements, the first of which was the publication of Serta’s book „Can Our Cities Survive?” in 1942, and in 1943, Le Corbusier’s work „La Chatre d’Athènes”, attributed to the anonymous „Le Groupe CIAM-France”, was published. The English version of Sert is 250 pages long and looks like an academic textbook adapted to the requirements of American readers. It also presents a different state of knowledge and materials than those discussed in 1933. Le Corbusier’s French version has the characteristics of an ideological manifesto in which Constatations are divided into 95 theses with long commentaries presenting the author’s views on the official document. The editor did not hesitate to change the content of some sentences from previously published versions of Constatations, which led Steinmann and Gold to make a separate analysis of this problem. 67

Main theses of the Athens Charter”, controversial wording and issue of impact

Since its founding congress in La Sarraz, the CIAM circle has spoken about urban planning, but has not had many experienced urban planners. The exception was van Eesteren. The work done during the collection of materials and the deliberations on board the ship deserves respect, but the achievements made were based on many previous observations and proposals. The published preliminary documents were not groundbreaking, as the CIAM had a marginal position among urban planning specialists (still with the exception of van Eesteren) and the results were theoretical and future-oriented. The destruction of big cities during the Second World War made the CIAM’s urban ideas more important, not least because of the post-war acceleration in the development of many cities and the construction of new parts of them. This leads to the problem of identifying the main theses of the Fourth Congress, discussing them and describing the situations in which the CIAM postulates of 1933 were applied.

The initial theses were not particularly controversial. According to them, several decisive groups can be distinguished in the functioning of cities: residential zones, workplaces, leisure and communication areas, and transport. The dispute begins with the question to what extent these functions should be separated. It is obvious that factories pollute the air and wrongly situated can poison the inhabitants. However, concentrating the housing in separate spaces can prolong the time needed to get to the workplace, which was a problem displayed by the participants of the congress. Only this contradiction indicates that perfect solutions with utopian characteristics were sought. The pursuits based on the conclusions of the simplified premises are sometimes realized regardless of their real reasonableness. The charm of simplicity in utopian visions has a huge social impact (especially in mass societies) and the political history of 20th century Europe is a good example of this. As problems build up, societies shift the responsibility for solving them to state organisms, which are strengthened by extraordinary powers in terms of methods of execution. This situation facilitates the adoption of extreme solutions. In addition, war damage has replaced plans to rationally demolish the old towns that fascinated Le Corbusier. The accelerated process of building housing estates in the post-war period also forced the adoption of simple solutions. Politics, economics and social needs took the side of the visionaries.

In its basic scope, the CIAM’s postulates did not bring any major threats. Apartments should be located in parts of cities where there is no danger of factory gas flowing in. Traffic within housing estates should be of a different nature than in zones intended for transport and communication. Care should be taken to preserve leisure and sports facilities and green areas, even if this is disadvantageous for investors. Communication should be improved to ensure that people reach their workplaces swiftly. When creating a transport structure, it is necessary to separate routes intended for slower and faster traffic and build multi-level crossings. Most of these recommendations have become self-evident and do not give rise to any major controversy. They were carried out both on the basis of obvious needs and with the support of the propaganda using the achievements of the CIAM. Influential scientists have contributed greatly to the dissemination of good practice and have devoted their time not only to publishing books but also to skilfully convincing using all available media. An example of this could be the activity of Sigfried Giedion, whose most famous publication „Space, Time and Architecture. The Growth of a New Tradition” expresses the view that the ideas of modernist architects are the most consistent with the essential features of modernity. Since its first edition in 1941, the book has had several editions and has become an academic textbook at many faculties of architecture all over the world. With numerous signs of objectivity, the work carried out evidence in support of the thesis of the inevitability of universal acceptance of the solutions proposed by the CIAM. The activity of Giedion, who was a long-time lecturer at Harvard University and ETH Zurich, shows what role the occupation of chairs at technical universities played in promoting the ideology of avant-garde modernism in architecture. In Europe, more similar books have been published; however, one should mention the works of Wacław Ostrowski, who played an active role as an urban planner by managing the Department of Urban Planning of the Office of the Reconstruction of Warsaw Capital City after the end of the Second World War and, like Giedion, he included his views in his scientific works on the history of urban construction. 68 Only now does it make us wonder to what extent the reconstruction of Warsaw after the destruction of the Second World War was in some aspects a complement to the war damage and the creation of a new city, not only modernist in character, but also subordinated to the new political system. The apologetics of avant-garde modernism and an attempt to educate future generations of urban planners in the spirit of modernist beliefs have also permeated the books by Helena Syrkus, referred to in this text.

The most controversial opinions introduced by Le Corbusier into his version of the „Athens Charter” concern the issue of high-rise buildings, the radical separation of roads for different purposes and insisting on just a few of the most essential functions of the city. 69 In advance of further consideration, it should already be stated that at least two of these three solutions have been completely changed by successive generations of urban planners. Le Corbusier has been promoting the construction of high-rise buildings with a predominance of residential functions since his project „Ville contemporaine de trois millions d’habitants” (1922). These ideas aroused resistance in the CIAM circle itself even among such admirers of Le Corbusier’s talents as the Syrkus. The official documents of the Fourth Congress referred to as Constations or Feststellungen and the English version contained in the book Serta in proposals relating to high-rise buildings do not differ much from the formulations used in the version by Le Corbusier (point 28), but according to Gold, the French edition has rhetorically reinforced the suggestions for the use of such a form of construction. 70 This can be accepted, especially if one takes into account Le Corbusier’s comment added to paragraph 28 that the tower offers the best views of the surrounding area, clean air and proper sunshine. „Only buildings of a certain height will be able to happily satisfy these justified requirements”. 71

Le Corbusier equally strongly suggested separating the roads for different purposes, which in many cases resulted in the complete separation of pedestrian and road traffic. Such solutions have been widely adopted, especially in highway traffic, while some tension resulting from the mixing of pedestrian and car traffic belongs to the darker charms of urban life, but leaving it unchanged also makes sense. The third serious controversy concerns the recognition that only the main functions of the city, i.e. housing, work, leisure and transport, are decisive in urban planning. A certain correction has already been made in Sert’s study and under the influence of Lewis Mumford’s criticism the possibility of maintaining the development of the city as a result of its long history has been recognised. 72 The value of the diversity of the city’s functions, including all that is not subject to rationalisation, was fully acknowledged only at the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century.

The issue of participation of Polish architects in the work of the CIAM

At least a few statements and postulates of the „Athens Charter” were based on the concepts of Le Corbusier, who was constantly striving to achieve a dominant position in the discussions held within the CIAM. The very foundation of this organisation had a connection with Le Corbusier, whose design for the Palace of the Nations was unethically rejected in the final stage of the competition, provoking indignation, which was subsequently used to establish an international association of architects. 73 Forms of the project intended for implementation 74 and finally built in Geneva were for decades an additional proof of the twilight of architecture referring to the patterns of the past. Le Corbusier included the history of the competition in a separate chapter preceding his version of the „Athens Charter”. The information contained therein should be supplemented with a reminder that a modernist project by Bohdan Lachert (together with Stanisław Hempeel), which gained recognition from Le Corbusier and Szymon Syrkus’ project (together with Henryk Oderfeld), were also submitted to the competition. The fact that Syrkus and his wife belonged to the avant-garde group „Praesens” drew the attention of the founders of the CIAM, and on 10 July 1928 S. Syrkus was invited to participate in the Congress in La Sarraz. Since the entire „Praesens” group was recognized as a Polish section of the CIAM, Helena Syrkus also became a member of the CIAM and performed a number of functions there. 75 According to the findings of Eric Mumford and Martin Kohlrausch, as a result of the approval of new Polish members, the CIAM participants included Barbara and Stanisław Brukalskis, Wacław Chyrosz, Stanisław Hempel, Irena and Bohdan Lacherts, Jan Najman, Anatolia and Roman Piotrowskis, Helena and Szymon Syrus, Józef Szanajca, Rudolf Świerczyński, Zbigniew Skibniewski and Aleksander Szniolis. 76 According tom H. Syrkus account, the Polish CIAM was represented at the Fourth Congress by married couples of the Brukalskis, the Syrkus and the Piotrowskis. During the IV Congress, Szymon Syrkus presented a study on Warsaw. Three obligatory boards were supplemented by a fourth one showing the level of smoke in particular districts. 77

The first presentation of problems concerning Warsaw at „Patris II” was rather average, but at the same time in Warsaw there were works on a much more advanced elaboration under the patronage of Jan Olaf Chmielewski. 78 The study by Chmielowski and S. Syrkus was published in 1934 under the title „Warszawa Funcjonalna” [Functional Warsaw] and contained as many as 15 boards and 41 pages of explanations. 79 In April 1934 it was presented in Zurich during a meeting of the Swiss participants of the CIAM, where it was presented by H. Syrkus. The meeting was attended by Karl Moser, Werner Moser and Rudolf Steiger and Hans Bernoulli, who presented a number of observations, including one on the biological nature of the study. The second speaker was Nicolaus Kelen, who would soon deliver a paper in Warsaw, which would then become the prelude to the second edition of the Chmielewski and Syrkus’ report. 80

The study „Functional Warsaw” with the associated boards was then presented in May 1934 during a meeting of the CIRPAC committee in London in the Royal Institut of British Architects, where, apart from the members of the MARS (Modern Architectural Research Group) group, outstanding British urban planners participated: Sir Patric Abercombie, Sir Raymond Unwin and Sir Patric Osborn. 81 As H. Syrkus wrote: „Functional Warsaw met with so much recognition, that it was recommended as a model solution to all CIAM groups, to whom we sent a brochure with a translation into French, German and English”. 82 This occurred after a long discussion initiated by Le Corbusier when he realised that the study in question was beginning a new phase in spatial planning, since its perspective not only crosses city boundaries and integrate it into the functioning of the region, but also takes into account the context of the continent and even of the entire globe. 83 The discussion closed around midnight on 21 May 1934 with a conclusion in its report: „We accept the proposal of the Polish group as a model for the possible treatment of the regional plan issue by other CIAM groups”. The adopted resolution was intended to encourage other CIAM groups to complete the preparation of the final versions of their presentations during the Fourth Congress, to pass them on to the editors and thus close the stage in the preparation of the next congress devoted to the „functional city”.

The second important document that crowned the discussion in the RIBA was a letter from the CIAM presidency to Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski, then the Mayor of Warsaw. The letter stated that the plan presented by Chmielewski and Syrkus made a great impression on the members of the CIAM and suggested that a special attention be paid to it. On 15 November 1934, the authors presented their study at a meeting of the Warsaw Branch of the SARP, where the co-presentations was given also by Bohdan Lachert, Romuald Miller, Roman Piotrowski, Zbigniew Stefan Różycki, Jan Strzelecki and Tadeusz Tołwiński. The information about the success of Poles at the CIAM forum had a significant impact on the establishment by Stefan Starzyński, the new Mayor of Warsaw, of the City Planning Department, which became an institution employing 400 specialists and nearly 1000 measurers. 84 On 28 March 1936, an exhibition devoted to the development of the city was opened at the National Museum in Warsaw, which, with its abundance in anticipating the future development of the capital, attracted a great number of visitors. 85The photo from the opening of the exhibition shows (from the left): Stefan Starzyński, President of the Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki, Maria Mościcka, the aforementioned Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski, Minister of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment Wojciech Świętosławski, Minister of Internal Affairs Władysław Raczkiewicz (later Polish President in exile) and Vice-Mayor of Warsaw Józef Olpiński.

Work on the city’s development concepts continued throughout the Nazi occupation in Warsaw, but also in exile in London. The third edition of „Functional Warsaw” was published in London as the second issue of the „Biuletyn Towarzystwa Urbanistów Polskich w Zjednoczonym Królestwie” [„Bulletin of the Society of Polish Urbanists in the United Kingdom”] in May 1945. A dozen or so months later, the new version, supplemented by reflections made during the conspiracy time, was presented at the 18th Congress of the International Federation of Housing and Planning held in Hastings from October 7 to 12, 1946.

Functional Warsaw” in the history of urban planning

Functional Warsaw” by Chmielewski and Syrkus, as well as the study plan of London by the MARS group from 1942, are surprisingly returning in the research on the history of urban planners. 86 In the 1930s and 1940s a large number of urban studies were produced, but only a few of them, mostly of utopian nature, are presented in studies on the history of urban planning. This is despite the fact that it is impossible to prove that the solutions proposed in them have a significant impact on the real changes in the reconstruction or construction of cities. Therefore, there is a problem of reasons why certain impractical postulates are constantly considered as an essential part of urban planning knowledge. This is probably due to the fact that their extremity summarises certain necessary trends in the management of urban development, which should not be implemented in an absolute manner, but are indicators of the desired order of functions of cities. In order to carry out this thesis, it is therefore necessary to recall once again the basic assumptions of several decisive urban plans of the 1930s and 40s.

The starting point of the theories contained in the study „Functional Warsaw” was the observation that cities develop in connection with the course of communication routes: local, regional and interregional. In shaping the future character of the city it is particularly necessary to take into account the connection of the city with regional and continental routes. According to the authors of „Functional Warsaw”, the city in question lies at the crossroads of a latitudinal transport route running through Central Europe from east to west and a meridian route running from south to north. The former was defined as transcontinental, the latter as inter-see. The extension of Warsaw required, on the one hand, the preservation of a large part of its already existing historical buildings, as well as the orderly arrangement of its chaotic development, also in connection with the adjacent region. Warsaw, perceived as extending beyond its current borders, was described by the authors as „Maximum Warsaw” (W max). Such a concept would make it possible to relieve the existing city of the need to compact its various functions. Based on the conviction that future movements in Europe would take place primarily in the east-west direction, the development of transport routes along such routes was envisaged. As the geographical conditions also led to this, it was proposed that industrial centres should be developed on routes outside Warsaw on the north-western side, while green areas and residential and recreational functions should be concentrated on areas outside Warsaw on the south-eastern side. More intensive traffic should bypass Warsaw, while local traffic should be directed through its centre. The east-west route of local traffic should concentrate shopping centres (local, domestic and foreign). Administrative, political and cultural functions should be preserved in the central zone. The intersections of the bands running from east to west and from south to north should be carefully developed as alternative centres of „Maximum Warsaw”. The city would be extended in many directions and equipped with satellite town centres.

The conception of Chmielewski and Syrkus was a summary of many urban conceptions and despite its future character it kept moderation in planning. It proposed de-concentration, but also maintaining important functions in the centre. Industrial centres were separated from residential areas because of health reasons. It was at the same time the fulfilment of postulates, which manifested themselves in the circles of the CIAM, but also among social activists from all over Europe. Abstract conceptions of the linear city developed in urban planning from the time of the ideas of Arthur Sorio y Mata and Gonzales de Castillo to Nikolai Milutin were toned by multiplying the lines and introducing many bands for different purposes and additionally crossing each other. The spaces between the intersecting lines could be developed in different ways, not necessarily determined in advance. The post-war period made it possible to arrange Warsaw in an orderly manner, although the demolition of some of its fragments is now being criticised. This phenomenon cannot be associated with the plans of „Functional Warsaw”, although its authors and advocates had a decisive influence on the functioning of institutions dealing with the post-war reconstruction of the capital of Poland. Similarly, the construction of residential districts based on high-rise buildings is not only the result of the recommendations of the Athens Charter and Le Corbusier’s fantasy, but also of many different economic, social and psychological factors. It is often forgotten that flats in high-rise buildings with thin walls between rooms, perishable elevators and dirty garbage chutes were once a desirable alternative to dwelling in brick buildings with underexposed interiors heated by coal stoves.

The 1942 London Master Plan of the MARS Group 

The plan of several members of the MARS group published in 1942 shows some similarities with the work of Chmielewski and Syrkus, but also some significant differences. 87 Along with this problem, the question should also be posed about the possible impact of the presentation of „Functional Warsaw” in London in 1934 on the later activities of British urban planners. John Gold conducted several analyses of Arthur Korn’s and Felix Samuely’s ideas, which show that the so-called Master Plan of the MARS group was in fact a plan of mainly these two people. Korn and Samuely only partially gave their work a character of a summary of a longer discussion among the participants of the association, but they saturated it with their own extreme ideas. It was therefore not a coincidence that the final effects were also questioned among the members of the MARS group itself. 88

The first contribution of the MARS group to urban planning was the presentation of London at the the Fourth CIAM Congress. A certain stage of further work was a meeting in the RIBA in 1934 attended by Polish and British architects. Since 1935 a separate Town Planning Committee was functioning within the group, which consisted of Hubert de Cronin Hastings and a team composed of Aileen and William Tatton Brown. An inspiring role was played by de Cronin Hastings, fascinated by modernism and the theory of the linear city and the publisher of „Architectural Review” and „Architects Journal” magazines. Under his influence, the Tatton Browns created the first London development project within the MARS group, which was presented in September 1937 in Paris during the V CIAM Congress. Further work on urban planning within the MARS group was not carried out at the time because the association’s efforts focused on preparing its own exhibition in London in 1938. 89 The Tatton Browns’ project, presented at this exhibition, assumed the expansion of London along radial communication routes. At the same time a second master plan for London started to be created, whose spiritus movens was Arthur Korn, a German architect whose Jewish origin caused him to emigrate from Germany. 90 Korn was still in the USSR in 1929, where among architects and urban planners he met Milutin and was fascinated by the idea of a linear city. From 1930 he also established links with architects in London, where he settled for good from 1937, despite the difficulties caused by his German origins and enthusiastic inclinations towards communism. In February 1938, Korn declared that he would take up work on new ideas for a master plan for London, but the outbreak of the war in September 1939 complicated these plans, as some of the members of the group were mobilized, while Korn himself was interned in the Hutchison camp on the Isle of Man for 18 months. 91 In December 1941, at the association’s meeting, Felix Samuely, another member of the MARS group who was a German emigrant of Jewish descent, 92 reviewed the work on town planning. Korn’s return to London from his internment in January 1942 rapidly accelerated the work on a new London plan. In June 1942, Korn and Samuely published a plan in the „Architectural Review” which, despite the complete unreality of its principles, had a hypnotic effect on urban planners. Fantasies cost as much as the paper on which they are written down, but they arouse fascination even among serious people. 93 Regarding the geographical and historical conditions of the existing London, Korn and Samuely’s Plan only took into account the fact that Thames passes through its area. The main component of the plan was a 2 mile wide and 25 mile long corridor where the main administrative and local functions were to be located. The central corridor would also include cross-city routes and London’s internal communication system. 94 Heavy industry and port activities were to be located in the central corridor. Perpendicularly to the main axis, 16 side corridors were to be created, along which other functions of the city, mainly residential, would gather. The whole structure resembled a slightly bent skeleton of a fish. Opinions on this plan were cautious, although the idea was illusory and unfeasible. The authors claimed that it was only a study and theoretical elaboration, but the calculations they made during its preparation indicate that they secretly believed in the possibility of its realisation. The Luftwaffe air raids, the main series of which took place between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, were probably helpful in the realisation of these plans. From June 13, 1944 to March 29, 1945, V-1 missiles also fell on London. On 29 December 1940 the biggest attack took place, during which the Luftwaffe dropped 124 thousand bombs. In total, 1 million buildings and about 30% of the city area were demolished. Similar attacks were also directed at other cities, the most tragic of which affected Coventry on 14 and 15 November 1940. 60,000 buildings were then destroyed. The bombardment damage occurred in many cities involved in the conflict of the Second World War: Rotterdam (14 May 1940), Cologne (30-31 May 1942), Dresden (13-14 February 1945) and Tokyo (18 April 1942 and 23-24 February 1945).

Abercombi’s plans for expansion of London 

The reconstruction of London and its expansion took place according to different plans than those created by extreme modernists. Radical conceptions, however, had a certain impact on the activities of post-war urban planners, as they facilitated the adoption of decisive solutions and, for some time, also had a social acceptance. In a complex social situation, it also sometimes happened that solutions were adopted that exceeded the standards set by the CIAM and used Le Corbusier’s urban ideas, which were as utopian as the principles of a linear city.

The main basis for the London reconstruction in the 1940s were, sponsored by London City Council, John Henry Forshaw and Sir Leslie Patrick Abercombi’s plans of 1943 (County of London Plan) and Abercombi’s plan of 1943 and published in 1944 (Greater London Plan) 95 These documents were pervaded by the spirit of social concern and the desire to improve the lives of those living in the most neglected districts of the West End. They planned a radical sanation, but also the preservation of historical values. The authors searched for the old, seed sources of certain districts and counties and tried to reconstruct them in new conditions and with the necessary comfort features. The plans took care to preserve neighbourly and social ties, mix residents of different social status and provide the necessary recreational and green areas. Did both Abercombie’s plans use the ideas of the CIAM and the MARS group? They definitely exceeded values of the CIAM documents with their humanism and the emphasis placed on maintaining the civic spirit, although they were similar in their individual components. From the conceptions of the MARS group they drew courage in planning, but they differed in their will to preserve everything that is historically important and peculiar in London. They have led to the de-concentration of London and a reduction in its population density. They arranged transport problems to a satisfactory level and led part of the industry out of the city. Separation of traffic types did not take on an extreme character here, but proved to be sufficient. Combined with the construction activity of creating new towns on the outskirts of London, the partial implementation of Abercombi’s plans has made the city a desirable place to work and live. Although Abercombi’s urban ideas were criticized by Lewis Mumford, it was done from the point of view of general criticism of the directions of civilization development, including urban overgrowth and the exaggerated penetration of social life with technical ideals. Probably after an even bigger disaster than the Second World War, it will be possible to build a post-industrial and de-urbanised civilisation, but it is to be hoped that this will not be occur.

The new districts of London and the new towns around it have sometimes used radical ideas for modernist urban planning, and in the Alton Estate district of London’s Roehampton, several residential towers were built in 1958 as if they were copied from Le Corbusier’s drawings. The combination of these buildings with low-rise buildings made it possible to create an urban landscape in which international modernism combines with traditional cities. In the new Golden Lane housing estate, in a part of London devastated by bombs, only one residential tower was designed. Similarly, only one residential tower was included in the design of the new town of Harlow north of London. More high-rise buildings were erected in the Park Hill estates in Sheffield, built in a brutalist style, which were less and less popular over time, mainly because of the poor acoustic insulation of the flats. The characteristics of the Sheffield estate are similar to the most famous estate of its kind, The Pruitt-Igoe in Saint Louis, USA, built between 1952 and 1955. 96 The demolition on 15 July 1972 of several blocks of flats in the area of this huge estate was considered by Charles Jencks to be the date of the end of modernism. This widespread belief since then about the predominance of shortcomings in this type of housing, however, ignores the basic knowledge that its inhabitants were often moved there from apartments of very low standard, without drains and running water. The degradation of this settlement was due to the fact that it became a ghetto for low-income or unemployed residents. They were provided with state-funded housing, but their social and economic integration did not take place.

The status of the Athens Charter” today

In his article Shaping American Urban Public Space, Eric Mumford told the story that Josep Lluís Sert visited Lewis Mumford at the end of 1940 and asked him to write an introduction to his book Can Our Cities Survive, which included an extended version of the Athens Charter. 97 Mumford politely refused and a few years later explained to Frederic James Osborne that the reason was his disapproval of the modernist concept of the city as a mechanism for work, leisure and transport. He believed that the city was a product of politics, social life and culture, which was not taken into account in Serta’s book. In this way, the „Athens Charter” was aptly criticised even before it was released in a widely available publication. Arguments similar to those behind Mumford’s restraint were also among Abercombi’s guiding values in his plans to heal, rebuild and expand London. This article, however, seeks to demonstrate that the „Athens Charter” was also useful at a certain stage of urban development and should not be attributed solely to destructive tendencies. The objection to overpopulation, lack of hygiene or other inefficient functions of many cities at the beginning of the 20th century led to trying to solve functional problems. After several generations of social activists, the creators of the „Athens Charter” also inherited concern for ensuring healthy living conditions for poorer residents. The situation, which exists a hundred years later, in the first decades of the 21st century is different and requires the application of different principles in urban planning.

The „Athens Charter” and similar radical proposals by Chmielewski or Korn played a role as extreme demands which should be taken into account as indicators for more realistic plans. Axiological systems abound in principles that are not implemented in an absolute manner, but nevertheless guide the behaviour of people and societies. A similar role is played in social thought by various utopias trying to regulate social existence on the basis of strictly rational principles. The ideas contained in the summary of the IV CIAM Congress had precedents in the utopian reflections of Ebenezer Howard 98, Arthur Soria y Mata, Tony Garnier and Camil Sitte. A separate role in the period in which the CIAM’s urban principles were created was played by Le Corbusier’s extreme ideas contained in his „Ville contemporaine” projects (with a group of sixty-floor skyscrapers located in parks, 1922), Plan Voisin for Paris (contained in the book Urbanism, 1925), or Ville radieuse 99 (1930). The Athens Charter played an analogous role in creating a rational system of values and a project for the future, while its negative effects were due to the impossibility of predicting the consequences of concrete solutions. Architectural thought by both individual authors and teams will always be a recurring attempt to design the future which will include proposals with unpredictable consequences. An example of this are one after another urban planning documents adopted by international organisations.

In the years 1995-1998, town planning associations of eleven countries of the European Union elaborated a document called „New Charter of Athensn1998. The Principles of Urban Planning”, which at the Lisbon conference was modified to „New Athens Charter 2003. The Vision for Cities in 21st Century” and complemented in Barcelona in 2013 by the „Charter for European Planning. The Vision for Cities and Regions of Europe in the 21st Century”. The differences with the CIAM documents are very significant. In the new charters, the attention paid to the historical continuity of the cities and to the need to preserve their peculiarities is clearly reflected, whereas in the recommendations of the CIAM, the preservation of the historic substance of the cities was an interpolation made at the insistence of the Italian delegates. The destructive spirit of Baron Georges Haussmann, who patronized the ideas of Le Corbusier an planning principles of international avant-garde architects, is no longer recalled. Equally strong in new urban planning is the desire to mix functions instead of separating them as recommended in the 1933 Charter. The architect planner is no longer a quasi-political dictator in the amended charters, but rather a social mediator.

Many recommendations, similar to those contained in the new „Athens Charters”, were produced in urban planning environments and the directives contained in the declarations of the three UN conferences on human housing held in Vancouver (Habitat I, 1976), Istanbul (Habitat II, 1996) and Ecuadorian Quito (Habitat III, 2016) distinguish among them. The main idea of these meetings was sustainable development. They bring many insights and relevant recommendations, but like the 1977 „Machu Picchu Charter” considered unsuccessful, they are surprisingly little influential and powerless. All these documents were produced by professionals and officials, but they lack the character of a thrilling vision and individual genius acting on the verge of madness. The vast majority of those involved in the 1933 charter proved to be outstanding personalities, known also outside their professional circles, while the current planners are more exclusively reliable specialists. The lack of far-reaching plans based on unverifiable premises is incapacitating and is a shortcoming similar to the promotion of the concept that already at the stage of assumptions causes worry with extreme rationalism. The lack of a visions (which are always dangerous by their very nature) leads to intellectual regression and makes it difficult to predict future phenomena in urban development.


The „Athens Charter” is a document that exists in several versions and none of them should be ignored. Learning about the differences between these versions provides knowledge about important controversies in the group of participants in the IV CIAM Congress. The analysis of discussions in the period preceding the IV Congress shows that some CIAM members were not convinced by Le Corbusier’s vision of building towers among park spaces and did not share this architect’s contempt for the traditional form of urban development. Balanced position in the final version of the „Findings” (Constatations/Feststellungen) undertaken at the congress and reinforced in the publication „The Ahens Charter” by Le Corbusier in 1943 gained different interpretations in the construction practice.

Some planners limited themselves to building one tower in the new housing estate and intended it for the poorer or lonely. It was supposed to be a clear margin in larger built-up areas. Much more often, however, other extreme solutions were used and large housing estates based entirely on high-rise buildings were built. Only this one example shows that the practical application of the principles of the charter was subject to modifications depending on specific economic, political or psychological conditions. It is yet an undeniable fact that for many residents of modernist housing estates, living in high-rise buildings was the realization of their aspirations.

A study of the circumstances in which the congress on the steam ship was prepared shows that the CIAM environment was only one of many organisations representing architects and urban planners in the first half of the 20th century. It was not decisive and was also contested by some more leftist architects (such as André Lurçat) or artists (such as Karel Teige), for whom even Le Corbusier’s proposals had a „bourgeois” character. All foreign designers working in the USSR during the preparation of the Congress abandoned their loyalty to modernism in a situation where the aesthetic preferences of the „working people of cities and villages” became identical the views of Stalin and his immediate circle. 100 For these very reasons the congress was boycotted by the „May’s Brigade”. The retreat from the avant-garde in the West and East coincided with the rise of right-wing dictatorships in the West and the change in the form of communism in the USSR. The Second World War period permanently dispersed the internationally of architects, although after the end of the war their ideas gained in importance. The need to quickly rebuild Europe’s raids-damaged cities, industrial development and the general economic boom have all contributed to hasty urbanisation processes, in which radical views have become very important. A founding member of the CIAM, André Lurçat, who from 1934 to 1937 worked in the USSR and represented communist views, after the war became one of the most important advisors to the French Ministry of Reconstruction and Urban Development (Ministère de la Reconstruction et de l’Urbanisme). Situations in which advocates of avant-garde modernism took up key positions in urban institutions took place in many European countries, including Poland.

The problems resulting from accelerated development of cities could be solved both by maintaining the continuity of their historical development and by using radical healing measures. The extremist solutions proposed by the CIAM modernist community had value as an element of theoretical discussions and a projection of the future. In specific variations, such as the Voisin plan or the Korn and Samuel’s plan, they were almost utopian and in the case of Le Corbusier’s idea also authoritarian. In social life, however, the inclinations to authoritarianism are probably greater than the willingness to record them in historiography. Adopting political or urban solutions in which the significance of individual freedom is diminished should not be surprising, and totalitarian fantasies are not only a product of individuals or groups, but also an expression of collective will. In mass societies, freedom is less necessary than meeting the demands of everyday life. There are probably many reasons that have influenced the identity of collective aspirations for rational organization of political life and excessive rationality in urban planning.

Urban planners were never only utopians, politicians were never only autocrats, and democratic solutions established in the law prompt to take into account less rational factors in social creation. Urban plans that maintained the continuity of city development and protected its peculiarities developed simultaneously with radically modernist plans, and over time they also gained their doctrinal formulas. The revolutionary manifestos of the 1930s have now found a counterbalance in the conservative doctrines represented by the so-called new urbanism, the writings of Leon Krier and many other neo-traditionalist theorists. However, in relation to the number of new towns still under construction with modernist features, the number of settlements with conservative character is much smaller. They are also not devoid of shortcomings. Considering the current state of urban planning, it should be assumed that a modernist city is not a result of the spirit of modernity, nor of individual or group doctrines, but rather an economically and socially simple solution to the needs of collective life in a civilization saturated with the values of rationalism and the cult of science and technology.

Selected bibliography

  1. Chmielewski Jan, Syrkus Szymon, Warszawa funkcjonalna. Przyczynek do urbanizacji regionu warszawskiego, ed. G. Piątek, new edition, Warszawa 2013.
  2. Czeredys Maciej, Kuciewicz Małgorzata, Porębska-Srebrna Joanna, Wyzwanie z przyszłości. Przedmowa do nowego wydania, [in:] J. Chmielewski, S. Syrkus, Warszawa funkcjonalna, Warszawa 201
  3. Flierl Thomas, The 4th CIAM Congress in Moscow. Preparation and Failure (1928-1933), “Questio Rossica” 2016, vo. 4, No. 3.
  4. Gold John Robert, Creating the Charter of Athens: CIAM and the Functional City, 1933-43, „The Town Planning Review” 1998, nr 3 (69).
  5. Internationale Kongresse für Neues Bauten. Congrès Internationaux d. Architecture Moderne. Dokumente 1928-1939, hrsg. M. Steinmann, Basel-Stuttgart 1979.
  6. Kohlrausch Martin, Brokers of Modernity. East Central Europe and the Rise of Modernist Architects, 1910-1950, Leuven 2019.
  7. Le Corbusier, Karta Ateńska, transl. T. Swoboda, Warszawa 2017.
  8. Mumford Eric Paul, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960, Cambridge (Mass.)-London 2000.
  9. Syrkus Helena, Ku idei osiedla społecznego 1925-1975, Warszawa 1976.
  10. Syrkus Helena, Społeczne cele urbanizacji. Człowiek i środowisko, Warszawa 1984.
  11. The Modern City Revisited, ed. T. Deckker, London-New York 2000.



  1. Cf., among others, J. Á. Medina, CIRPAC-BCN-1932. Relato epistolary de José Manuel Aizpurua de la reunion delegados del CIRPAC en Barcelona, Revista de Arquitectura, 2010, No. 12, pp. 111-118. ↩︎
  2. The department was founded in 1928, and from 1929 to 1959 it was headed by van Eesteren, see Cornelis van Eesteren. Urbanismus zwischen „de Stil” und C.I.A.M., hrsg. F. Bollerey, Braunschweig-Wiesbaden 1999, p. 171; cf. also H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji. Człowiek i środowisko, Warsaw 1984, p. 231 (here the incorrect period of managing the office by Eesteren). ↩︎
  3. For Magnitogorsk only see : В.И. Казаринова, В.И. Павличенков, Магнитогорск, Под ред. Г. Б. Минервина, Москва 1961; Е.А. Мильченко, Э.П. Чернышова, История архитектуры Магнитогорска: Немецкий городок, [in:] Актуальные проблемы архитектуры, строительства и дизайна, Материалы международной студенческой научной конференции института строительства, архитектуры и искусства, Магнитогорск, 2014, pp. 75-77; E. Pistorius, Die Generalplanentwürfe der Gruppe Ernst May für Magnitogorsk und die Pläne für das erste und das zweite Quartal (1930–1933), INSITU. Zeitschrift für Architekturgeschichte 2014, no. 1 pp. 93–116. Currently, the most comprehensive documentation of May’s stay in the USSR is contained in the work of T. Flierl, see Standardstädte. Ernst May in der Sowjetunion 1930-1933. Texte und Dokumente, Hrsg. T. Flierl, Berlin 2012 (p. 553). From earlier works it should be recalled Ch. Borngräber, Foreign Architects in the USSR, Architectural Association Quarterly, 1979, n. 1 (11), pp. 51-53 and A. Kopp, Foreign Architects in the Soviet Union during the First Five-Year Plans, in Reshaping Russian Architecture: Western Technology, Utopian Dreams, ed. W. C. Brumfield, B. A. Ruble, Washington, DC-Cambridge 1990, pp. 176-214. About that subject, also: N. Barykina, Socialist Constructions: Modern Urban Housing and Social Practice, PhD thesis, University of Toronto 2015, pp. 142-187 (Chapter 4. Modernity and „Uneven Development”: German Modernist Architects and Planners in the USSR). ↩︎

  4. J. Gold, Jak stworzono „Kartę Ateńską”, CIAM i miasto funkcjonalne, 1933-1943, trans. G. Piątek, [in:] Le Corbusier, Karta Ateńska, ed. G. Piątek, Warszawa 2017, p. XVIII. (its original, Creating the Charter of Athens: CIAM and the Functional City, 1933-43, „The Town Planning Review” 1998, no. 3 (69), pp. 225-247. ↩︎
  5. Sigfried Giedion, Secretary General of the CIAM, already during the Congress in Frankfurt am Main in 1929, contacted the Russian Embassy about the organization of a congress in Moscow. A telegram from 27 November 1930 sent to the CIAM by the Central Council of Housing Cooperatives in Moscow indicates that the Russian side had at the time seen a political interest in such a joint venture. ↩︎
  6. H. Syrkus, p. 223, J. Gold, p. XXI. ↩︎
  7. H. Syrkus, Ku idei osiedla społecznego 1925-1975, Warszawa 1976, pp. 130-131. ↩︎
  8. Ibid., p. 130, with the author’s reference to E. May, Der Bau der Städte in der UdSSR, „Das Neue Frankfurt” 1931, nos. 7 and 8. ↩︎
  9. Н. А. Милютин, Соцгород. Проблемы строительства социалистических городов: Основные вопросы рациональной планировки и строительства населённых пунктов СССР, Москва-Ленинград 1930. H. Syrkus, Ku idei …, pp. 131, 214. Milutin’s concept developed earlier ideas of Mikolaj Ochitovich and went down in the history of urban planning under the name of a linear city. Cf. also: Lt. D. Chmelnitzki, Nikolaj Miljutins „Sozgorod” vor dem Hintergrund der sowjetischen Geschichte /Д. С Хмельницкий, “Соцгород” Николая Милютина в контексте советской истории, [in:] N. A. Miljutin, Sozgorod. Probleme des Planens sozialistischer Städte. Grundlegende Prinzipien bei der Planung und beim Bau von Siedlungen in der UdSSR, Faksimile der Originalausgabe und deutsche Übersetzung, Hrsg. D. Chmelnitzki, Übersetzung H.-M. Johenning, Berlin 2008. Piotr Juszkiewicz presented the matter in a broader context, see: Burzyć, mieszkać, produkować. Ideowe podstawy urbanistycznych teorii awangardy rosyjskiej lat 20. i 30. XX wieku w projekcie Socgorodu Nikołaja Milutina, Rocznik Historii Sztuki 2014, n. 39, pp. 143-155. ↩︎
  10. Kurzbiographien von Künstlern und Architekten in Avantgarde I. 1900–1923. Russisch-sowjetische Architektur, R. Graefe, Ch. Schädlich, D. W. Schmidt, E. Kiricenko, S. Fedorov, N. Smurova, E. Pistorius, exhibition catalog, Stuttgart 1991, s. 307. ↩︎
  11. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 131. The author’s footnote on p. 214 indicates that many of these projects were promoted in German, Dutch and Polish architectural circles, cf., among others, B. Taut, Russlands Architektonische Situation, Moderne Bauform. Monatshefte für Architektur und Raumkunst 1930, n. 2; S. Drahomanow, Neuer russischer Städtbau, Das Neue Frankfurt, 1931, no. 5; L. Tomaszewski, Budownictwo i architektura w ZSRR, Architektura i Budownictwo, 1931, pp. 259-261; idem, Urbanistyka w ZSRR, Architektura i Budownictwo, 1931, no. 8-9, pp. 321-337. Leonard Tomaszewski, mentioned here as one of the authors, began his studies at the Faculty of Engineering in St. Petersburg (1916-1917), later he was the head of the Urban Planning Department of the Union of Polish Cities, and after 1945 he participated in the works of the Office of the Reconstruction of the Warsaw Capital City at the Faculty of Urban Planning of the Warsaw University of Technology. Joanna Kucharzewska’s article brings a new perspective on Soviet concepts and their Polish adaptation, see Radzieccy i polscy architekci wobec „maszyny do mieszkania, Sztuka Europy Wschodniej - Искусство восточной Европы - Art of the East Europe 2014, vol. II: Polska-Rosja. Sztuka i historia, p. 167-173. ↩︎
  12. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 131. ↩︎
  13. See J.-L. Cohen, Le Corbusier’s Centrosoyuz in Moscow, Future Anterior, 2008, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 52-61. ↩︎
  14. Kohlrausch, Brokers of Modernity. East Central Europe and the Rise of Modernist Architects, 1910-1950, Leuven 2019, pp. 206-207. ↩︎
  15. H. Syrkus, Ku idei …, p. 131. ↩︎
  16. T. Flierl, The 4th CIAM Congress in Moscow. Preparation and Failure (1928-1933), Questio Rossica, 2016, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 20. ↩︎
  17. Ibidem, p. 24. The telegram was previously reproduced by Martin Steinmann, cf. Internationale Kongresse für Neues Bauten. Congrès Internationaux d. Architecture Moderne. Dokumente 1928-1939, hrsg. M. Steinmann, Basel-Stuttgart 1979, p. 113 (Die Einladung des 4. Kongress nach Moskau). Steinmann’s publication includes a catalogue of CIAM documents held at GTA in Zurich, see pp. 215-231. A similar list, but referring to CIAM documents in the Le Corbusier Foundation archives, was prepared up by Yannis Tziomis and Yannis Haskaris, see eidem, CIAM 1928-1940. Les documents de la Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris 1987. ↩︎
  18. E.P. Mumford, The CIAM discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960, Cambridge (Mass.)-London 2000, p. 73. ↩︎
  19. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, pp. 131-132; contrary to other authors, H. Syrkus erroneously refers to 1931 as the year of the visit to Moscow. ↩︎
  20. Ibidem, p. 132, because the author incorrectly assumed that the visit took place in 1931, she dated the sending of recommendations to 1932. ↩︎
  21. Many of the Soviet participants in the preparations for the Fourth CIAM Congress did not survive the period of „Great Terror” in the USSR in the 1930s. ↩︎
  22. The changes were described in detail in his doctoral thesis by Dmitry Chmelnitzki, cf. also, Architectur Stalins. Ideologie und Stil 1929-1960, Dissertation, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin 2004; published version: Die Architektur Stalins, Bd. 1: Studien zu Ideologie und Stil, Bd. 2: Bilddokumentation, Vorwort B. Flierl, Stuttgart 2007. ↩︎
  23. During the period of the described events, he was the president of the Supreme Council of the Economy, vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and chairman of a group of jurors in the competition for the palace. ↩︎
  24. Boris Mikhailovich Iofan (1891-1976) became the favourite architect of Stalin and became the author of the pavilion at the Paris exhibition in 1937, which competed there with the German pavilion designed by Albert Speer. ↩︎
  25. The outbreak of the Second World War slowed down the work, and at the end of the 1950s the foundations of the Palace of the Soviets were transformed into an open-air swimming pool. The idea of the building was never revived. In the 1990s, the Cathedral was rebuilt and completed in 2000. ↩︎
  26. J.-L. Cohen, Le Corbusier and the Mystique of the USSR: Theories and Projects for Moscow, 1928-1936, New Jersey 1992, p. 166; E. P. Mumford, op. cit., p. 72; C. Cooke, Socialist Realist architecture, [in:] Art of the Soviets. Painting, sculpture and architecture in a one-party state, 1917-1992, ed. M. C. Bown, B. Taylor, Manchester-New York 1993, s. 96, see also footnote 23 (p. 105). ↩︎
  27. Collectie Het Nieuwe Instituut in bruikleen van collectie Van Eesteren-Fluck & Van Lohuizenstichting, Den Haag, EEST_4.33-1, http://​www​.inventingeurope​.eu/​k​n​o​w​l​e​d​g​e​/​e​x​p​e​r​t​i​s​e​-​a​n​d​-​p​o​l​i​t​i​c​s​&​o​b​j​ect. The annex has been reproduced by T. Flierl, p. 28. ↩︎
  28. The author of the department store was Philipp Schaefer (1885-1952), the building was opened to the public on 21 June 1929 after two years of construction, see L. Uebel, Karstadt am Hermannplatz - Ein gutes Stück Berlin seit 1929, Berlin 2000. ↩︎
  29. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 133. ↩︎
  30. Le Corbusier et Pierre Jeanneret, Œuvre Complète, vol. II (1929-1934), ed. W. Boesiger, Basel 1995 (Édition originale 1934): Palais des Soviets à Moscou, pp. 123-137; for: H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 133. There is a great amount of literature on the relationship between Le Corbusier and the USSR, cf., among others, F. Starr, Le Corbusier and the USSR. New Documentation, „Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique” 1980, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 209-221, on the subject of the palace see p. 213-215. ↩︎
  31. The whole letter is quoted by F. Starr, pp. 215-217. ↩︎
  32. T. Flierl, p. 29. ↩︎
  33. Ibidm, p. 31. ↩︎
  34. Ibidem. ↩︎
  35. H. Syrkus, Ku idei …, p. 134; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…, pp. 226-227, Weinschenker’s reply of 18 April 1933 to the question of a possible deadline was: „Congrès seulement possible 1934”, Ibid, p. 227. M. Steinmann reproduces the 15 April radiogram, which reads as follows: „Kongress kann stattfinden nur 1934 – Zentroshilsojuz Weinschenker”, see M. Steinmann, op. cit., p. 128. ↩︎
  36. H. Syrkus, Ku idei …, p. 134; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…, pp. 227-228. ↩︎
  37. Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition, Cambridge (Mass.) 2002 (originally Harvard 1941); p. 698; J. R. Gold, The Experience of Modernism. Modern Architects and the Future City, 1928-1953, London 1997, p. 63. ↩︎
  38. H. Fessas-Emmanouil, Greece: The History Behind the Myth, [in:] Atlas of the Functional City: CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis, ed. E. van Es et al., Bussum 2014, p. 209; M. Kousidi, Through the Lens of Sigfried Giedion. Exploring Modernism and the Greek Vernacular in situ, RIHA Journal, 2016, Special Issue: Southern Modernisms, article 0136, pp. 4-5. ↩︎
  39. Le Corbusier, Karta Ateńska, transl. T. Swoboda, Warszawa 2017, p. 47 ↩︎
  40. S. Syrkus, Informacje o IV-ym Międzynarodowym Kongresie Architektury Nowoczesnej, Architektura i Budownictwo, 1933, no. 8, pp. 246-254. ↩︎
  41. The author based her work mainly on van Eesteren’s archive and the collection on the CIAM at the ETH Zurich. ↩︎
  42. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, pp. 135-142; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…, pp. 222-240. ↩︎
  43. Goldfinger was not only a militant modernist but also considered himself a Marxist, although he never became a member of the Communist Party. A biography showing the personal experiences of the architect, characteristic of a few other people known from the cruise ship „Patris II” was prepared by Nigel Warburton, cf. idem , Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect, London 2003. ↩︎
  44. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 135. ↩︎
  45. H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…, pp. 228-234. ↩︎
  46. Ernst May, Letter to Lewis Mumford, 20 September 1940, Lewis Mumford Papers, University of Pennsylvania, Folder 3194: “I could not return to Prussia for political reasons (my mother being of Jewish origin)”. See also: E. Herrel, Ernst May: Architekt und Stadtplaner in Afrika 1934–1953, Ausstellungskatalog, Ausstellung vom 9. März bis 8. Mai 2001, (= Schriftenreihe zur Plan- und Modellsammlung des Deutschen Architektur-Museums in Frankfurt am Main, Band 5), hrsg. E. Hils-Briockhoff, W. Voigt, Tübingen 2001, p. 61; cf. also idem, Ernst May (1886-1970). Ein Frankfurter Architekt und Städteplaner plant und baut in Ostafrika, „Denkmalpflege und Kulturgeschichte”, 2001, no. 1, pp. 44-51. ↩︎
  47. Syrkus, p. 252 ↩︎
  48. Ibidem. ↩︎
  49. Gold, pp. XXV-XXVI. ↩︎
  50. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 137, translated a fragment of Le Corbusier’s „ravishing improvisation” in the following way: „Let us mobilise the territories of cities and countries in such a way that they can be freely used in the interests of the community”. Such an expression will later be included in the study „Functional Warsaw”. The USSR was the unrivalled model in the field of „land mobilization”, cf. H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele …, p. 221: In most cases, the current state of land ownership paralysed the rational spatial development plans of residential districts, which made it impossible for the cities to freely dispose of their land. But despite this statement, the CIAM decided to continue its work in the direction of La Sarraz, especially since there was already a country where both the urban areas and the means of production were nationalized - the Soviet Union. The disguised call for expropriation ends the „Athens Charter” by Le Corbusier (points 93-95), which states: „Private interests must be subordinate to the general interest”. ↩︎
  51. S. Syrkus, p. 250: „The poor location of industrial districts - exhaust gases and smoke from factories reach as far as workers’ flats in the valley. The luxury districts, located on the slopes of the two hills surrounding Zurich, are in good conditions and have a much lower population density”. ↩︎
  52. Our Congress is a congress of technicians, Le Corbusier’s statement at the beginning of the congress, quoted after: S. Syrkus , p. 248. ↩︎
  53. Since the lists of cities differ in many publications, it will be useful to provide the most comprehensive version: „I – metropolises: Berlin, Budapest, London, Paris, Warsaw; II - cities with a predominance of administration and housing: Athens, Brussels, Geneva, The Hague, Madrid, Prague, Rome, Utrecht, Zurich, Zagreb; III - industrial cities: Charleroi, Dessau, Detroit; V - port cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Genoa, Cologne, Oslo, Rotterdam, Stockholm; V - holiday resorts: Dalat (French Indochina), Bandoeng (Dutch India, now Bandung, after 1949 Indonesia); VI - cities with mixed functions: Baltimore, Como, Frankfurt am Main, Los Angeles, Verona; VII - new centres: Littoria, Zuiderzee”, [after:] H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele…, p. 234. The difference lies in Zuiderzee, a drained bay that was turned into 1650 km² of new land in the 1930s. Archival boards of city presentations have been kept since 1972 in the archives of the CIAM at ETH in Zurich, some of them were published and single boards were reproduced by M. Steinmann, op. cit., pp. 132-133 (Barcelona), 134-135 (Zurich) and 136-139 (Dessau). ↩︎
  54. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 136. ↩︎
  55. H. Syrkus (Ku idei…, p. 131) listed by name the representatives of 16 groups, adding that there were still others „from different countries”, Gold (p. IX) wrote about the delegates of 18 member groups, while Le Corbusier stated that „the CIAM joins architects from 21 countries in a fervent brotherhood of work” (Le Corbusier, Des canons – des munitions? Merci! Des logis … s.v.p. Monographie du Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux à l’Exposition Internationale Art et Technique de Paris, [Collection de l’Équipement de la Civilisation Machiniste], Boulogne sur Seine 1937, pp. 30-31, quoted after: H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele…., p. 239, footnote 63, p. 279. The course of the IV Congress should be further examined. Cf. also: M. Steinmann, op. cit., pp. 130-131 (Der Verlauf des 4. Kongress). ↩︎
  56. J. Gold, op. cit., p. XXIII; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele …, p. 236. ↩︎
  57. M. Steinmann, p. 146-147 (Der erste Entwurf für die Resolution des 4. Kogresses). This document was published in the monthly „Gazette des Beaux Arts” on 1 September 1933 and then in the work of Le Corbusier, La Ville radieuse: éléments d’une doctrine d’urbanisme pour l’équipement de la civilization, Boulogne-sur-Seine 1935, pp. 188-189, which clearly indicates the authorship of this sketch. ↩︎
  58. Le Groupe CIAM-France, La Charte d’Athènes, Paris 1941. ↩︎
  59. H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele…, p. 236. ↩︎
  60. Werner M. Moser was chairman of the committee of proposals and Rudolf Steiger was chairman of the committee of minutes. ↩︎
  61. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 138. ↩︎
  62. H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele…, p. 237. ↩︎
  63. Gold, op. cit., p. XXVI; Steinman compiles these documents and gives them names: „Zürcher Fassung’, ‘Pariser Fassung’ and ‘Definitive Fassung’, see M. Steinmann, op. cit., p. 148-159. The dispute concerned, inter alia, the question of Moser and Steiger’s use of the expression „expropriation of land” (expriopriation du sol), which, in Le Corbusier’s version appeared as „land mobilisation” (mobilisation du sol). The „Zurich” version in French is held on ETH in Zurich, Kat. 4-5-14 F, see M. Steinmann, cited above, p. 149. ↩︎
  64. Feststellungen und Richtlinien des IV. Internationalen Kongress für Neues Bauen, Weiterbauen. Beiblatt der Schweizerischen Bauzeitung, 1934, no. 1, p. 103-104. ↩︎
  65. For the version, see M. Steinmann, p. 161. ↩︎
  66. Gold, s. XXX-XXXV; on the same subject, cf. also M. Steinmann, op. cit., pp. 166-167 (Das erschienene und das nichterschienene Buch des 4. Kongresses). ↩︎
  67. M. Steinmann, pp. 164-165; J. Gold, pp. XXXIX – XLVI. ↩︎
  68. Wacław Ostrowski (actually Wacław Leyberg, 1907-1990) was the author of about 100 publications, among which the work Contemporary Town Planning (1975) stands out. This work, in its original French edition, had a title indicating that the „Charter of Athens” is a summary of the development of contemporary urban planning: L’Urbanisme contemporain: des origines à la charte d’Athènes, Paris 1968. See A. Szmelter, J. Zdunek-Wielgolaska, The History of City Planning at the Faculty of Architecture, Warsaw University of Technology: Theory and Practice, World Multidisciplinary Civil Engineering - Architecture - Urban Planning Symposium, Prague 2019, IOP Conference Series Materials Science and Engineering 603:042033, pp. 6-8. ↩︎
  69. Gold, op. cit., pp. XXXIX-XLVI. ↩︎
  70. Ibid., pp. XXXIX-XL. ↩︎
  71. Le Corbusier, Karta Ateńska, p. 122. ↩︎
  72. J. Gold, op. cit., pp. XLIV-XLV. ↩︎
  73. J.-C. Pallas, Histoire et architecture du Palais des Nations, Genève 2001, pp.100, 104. ↩︎
  74. The work cannot be attributed to a single author because its parts were designed by a team of several laureates of the competition, but the classicistic forms of the façade are characteristic of Henri-Paul Nénot’s architecture. ↩︎
  75. Merely mentioned in western publications, the exchange of letters between H. Syrkus and CIAM activists is documented in the CIAM Archipelago. Listy Heleny Syrkus / CIAM Archipelago. The Letters of Helena Syrkus, ed. A. Kędziorek, K. Uchowicz, M. Wirkus, Warszawa 2019. Cf. also: R. Hoekstra, Women and Power in the History of Modern Architecture. The Case of the CIAM Congresses 1928-1937, in MoMoWo. Women designers, craftswomen, architects and engineers between 1918-1945, ed. M. Groot, H. Seražin, E. M. Garda, C. Franchin, Ljubljana 2017, pp. 136-138. ↩︎
  76. E. Mumford, footnote. 78; M. Kohlrausch, Poland. Planning a European Capital for a New State, in Atlas of the Functional City. CIAM 4 and the Contemporary Urban Analysis, ed. E. van Es, M. Pérez, G. Harbusch, D. Weiss, B. Mauerer, K. Somer, Zurich 2014, p. 321. ↩︎
  77. H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji, p. 223. After the accounts of the Syrkus on the role of Poles in the CIAM, Helena Kolanowska, a prominent member of the émigré Association of Engineers and Technicians in France, devoted a separate text to this issue. She has included her findings in the multilingual catalogue of the exhibition Polish Avant-garde. Urban planning, architecture 1918-1939, which was organized in Paris in 1981 by Prof. Olgierd Czerner, for many years the director of the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, see H. Kolanowska, Udział Polski w kongresach CIAM i zjazdach CIRPAC, in Awangarda polska. Architektura i urbanistyka, ed. O. Czerner, H. Listowski, Paris-Warszawa 1981, pp. 49-63. ↩︎
  78. The subject of the current and future urban character of Warsaw was also discussed in 1934 by Stanisław Woźnicki in the monthly magazine Architektura i Budownictwo, cf. M. Kohlrausch, Brokers of Modernity…, p. 76. Further pages of Kohlrausch’s book provide an outline of the history of spatial planning in Warsaw in the interwar period. See S. Berezowski, Jan Olaf Chmielewski (1895-1974), „Rocznik Mazowiecki” 1979, no. 7, pp. 278-279, but first of all K. Dziewoński, Jan Chmielewski – próba analizy twórczości in Studia i Materiały do Teorii i Historii Architektury i Urbanistyki, 1979, no. 15, pp. 87-91 ↩︎
  79. The study was published by the Society of Polish Urbanists in 1934. It is the so-called first edition. ↩︎
  80. The study was published by the Society of Polish Urbanists in 1934. It is the so-called first edition. ↩︎
  81. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 157; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…., p. 251. ↩︎
  82. H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, p. 157; H. Syrkus, Społeczne cele urbanizacji…., p. 251; H. Kolanowska, p. 52. ↩︎
  83. The discussion was reported in H. Syrkus, Ku idei…, pp. 158-159. ↩︎
  84. . Różański, Planowanie przestrzenne Warszawy (1916-1939), in Warszawa II Rzeczypospolitej 1918-1939, vol. I, Warszawa 1968, p. 334, for: M. Czeredys, M. Kuciewicz, J. Porębska-Srebrna, Wyzwanie z przyszłości. Przedmowa do nowego wydania in J. Chmielewski, S. Syrkus, Warszawa funkcjonalna, Warszawa 2013, p. 45. ↩︎
  85. G. Piątek, Wystawa „Warszawa przyszłości” (1936). Między pokazem architektury a „jarmarkiem dydaktycznym”, Miejsce, 2016, no. 6, pp. 147-173; M. Kohlrausch, Brokers of Modernity…, p. 218. ↩︎
  86. See, among others, M. Kohlrausch, Brokers of Modernity…., pp. 221-232;, Warszawa Funkcjonalna: Radical Urbanism and the International Discourse on Planning in the Interwar Period, in Races to Modernity. Metropolitan Aspirations in Eastern Europe, 1890–1940, ed. J. C. Behrends, M. Kohlrausch, Budapest–New York 2014, pp. 205-231. ↩︎
  87. A. Korn, F. J. Samuely, ‘A Master Plan for London’ Architectural Review, 1942, no. 91, pp. 143-150. ↩︎
  88. R. Gold, ‘The MARS Plans for London, 1933-1942: Plurality and Experimentatio in the City Plans of the Early British Modern Movement’ The Town Planning Review, 1995, no. 3 (66), pp. 243-267; Towards the Functional City? MARS, CIAM and the London Plans, 1933-1942, in The Modern City Revisited, ed. T. Deckker, London 2000, pp. 81-99; idem, ‘A very serious responsibility”? The MARS Group, internationality and relations with CIAM, 1933–39’ Architectural History, 2013, no. 56, pp. 253-79. ↩︎
  89. See K. Watanabe ‘The Characteristics of the English Modern Movement in Architecture through the New Architecture Exhibition in 1938 by the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) Group: a Study on the Activities of the MARS Group in English modern movement in architecture from 1933 to 1957’, Part I, Journal of Architecture and Planning, 1999, pp. 267-274. ↩︎
  90. Cf. A. Zeese, Die vergessene Moderne. Arthur Korn, Architekt, Urbanist, Lehrer (1891–1978). Leben und Werk eines jüdischen Avantgardisten in Berlin und London, Dissertation, Universität Wien, 2010. ↩︎
  91. Many artists, scientists, writers and philosophers from Germany and Austria were interned at Hutchison, and in a short time after the camp was set up they created a kind of free university there. Gradually, as some of the internees were identified as Jews or Nazi opponents, they were allowed to work outside the camp or were made redundant. ↩︎
  92. Samuely, like Korn, also stayed in the USSR for a short time (in 1932) and from 1933 settled in London. He was an outstanding specialist in welded steel structures, see D. Yeomans, The work and influence of Felix Samuely in Britain in Proceedings of the First International Congress on Construction History. Madrid, 20th - 24th January 2003, ed. S. Huerta, Madrid 2003, pp. 2127-2137. ↩︎
  93. J. Gold, The MARS Plan for London, p. 265: „Paper was cheap and it was not imperative to think through every detail of proposals intended for discussion purposes before picking up the drafting pen”. ↩︎
  94. Ibidem, p. 259. ↩︎
  95. P. K. M. van Roosmalen, London 1944: Greater London Plan, in Mastering the City: North-European Town Planning 1900-2000, ed. K. Bosma, H. Hellinga, Rotterdam 1998, pp. 258-265.). ↩︎
  96. K. B. Bristol ‘The Puitt-Igoe Myth’ Journal of Architectural Education, 1991, no. 3(44), pp. 163-171. ↩︎
  97. E. Mumford ‘Shaping American Urban Public Space from CIAM to New Urbanism’ Pós. Revista Do Programa De Pós-Graduação Em Arquitetura E Urbanismo Da FAUUSP, 2001, no. 10, p. 115. ↩︎
  98. A. Sas-Bojarska, Idea miasta-ogrodu w rozwoju współczesnej urbanistyki, in Manifesty urbanistyczne w poszukiwaniu współczesnego modelu miasta, red. T. Majda, I. Mironowicz, Warszawa 2017, pp. 10-13; R. Skrzypczyński, Miasta-ogrody i Karta Ateńska: od racjonalnych wizji do ewoluującej rzeczywistości miejskiej. Co dziś zostało z idei Howarda i manifestu modernistycznego, in: ibidem, s. 28-32. ↩︎
  99. V. Cheng, R. Compagnon, K. Steemers, La Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier, once again a case study, PLEA2006 - The 23rd Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Geneva, Switzerland, 6-8 September 2006, https://​www​.researchgate​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​/​3​7​4​3​4​408. ↩︎
  100. In a situation where during the CIRPAC meeting in Barcelona votes were raised in favour of cancelling the congress in Moscow because of the rejection of Le Corbusier’s project to the Palace of the Soviets, a group of 26 foreign architects and designers working in the USSR condemned such a proposal, which was further justified by Hans Schmidt’s article stating that for the jury functionalism and architecture of Le Corbusier are a manifestation of capitalism, see „Die neue Stadt: internationale Monatsschrift für architektonische Planung und städtische Kultur” 1932, no. 6, pp. 146-148. The letter titled „An den internationalen Kongress für neues Bauen. Generalsekretariat”, was signed by: Heinrich Eggerstedt, Albert Löcher, Walter Kratz, Werner Hebebrand, Walter Schwagenscheidt, Alfred Mensebach, Bert Nienhuis, Jan Vermeulen, Philipp Tolziner, Tibor Weiner, Hannes Meyer, Rene Mensch, E. Kletschoff, Julius Neumann, Fred Forbat, Josef Neufeld, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, Wilhelm Schütte, Hans Burkart, Steffen Ahrends, Hans-Georg Graßhoff, Hans Schmidt, Peer Bücking, F. Neumann, Ernst May, Johann Niegemann. ↩︎

Cezary Wąs

Przepraszamy, ten wpis jest dostępny tylko w języku Amerykański Angielski.

Dr. habil. Cezary Was, wascezar@​gmail.​com, https://​orcid​.org/​0​0​0​0​-​0​0​0​2​-​5​1​6​3​-​9​248 Assistant Professor at the Institute of Art History, University of Wroclaw. Curator of the Museum of Architecture. Author of the books: Antynomie współczesnej architektury sakralnej (Antinomies of the Contemporary Sacred Architecture, 2008), Architektura a dekonstrukcja. Przypadek Petera Eisenmana i Bernarda Tschumiego (Architecture and Deconstruction. The case of Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi, 2015) and dozens of articles on phenomena of the ancient and modern culture.

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