Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
251 250 Doxiadis, typecast by Life maga- zine as the “Busy Remodeler of the World,” was not an exception but rather an exemplary representative of a generation of architects and urban planners that worked global- ly during the decades following the Second World War under the regime of development aid. These desig- ners—including well-known names such as Michel Ecochard, Otto Koe- nigsberger, Georges Candilis, Shad- rach Woods, Maxwell Fry, and Jane Drew—initiated a broader debate on the character, role, and potential of in- frastructure. This essay is an attempt to probe into these other definitions of infrastructure that not only chan- ged architectural and urban discourse at the time, but are also relevant for contemporary design thinking and practice. Otto Koenigsberger: Climatological Apparatus of Urban Growth An initial contribution to such a de- finition came from the German-born architect Otto Koenigsberger, one of the main protagonists of postwar de- velopment aid. 4 In a 1971 report for the Ford Foundation, Infrastructure Problems of the Cities of Developing Countries, Koenigsberger signalized that the discipline of architecture and urban planning had been overly focusing on “the master plan, su- gar-cube or Lego approach to cities,” and therefore had bluntly forgotten about the issue of infrastructure. 5 In the early stages of his own career, he had claimed that “the greatest area of non-research is into […] the col- lective or individual sectors of urban infrastructure.” 6 Koenigsberger suggested that the house could be looked upon as the infrastructure par excellence through which problems of population growth, health, and urban development could be addressed. 7 In well-known pu- blications such Roofs in the Warm Humid Tropics (1965) and Manual of Tropical Housing and Building (1974), Koenigsberger started to cast a new definition of the house: no longer a passive container of dwelling practices, but rather a performative Fig. 3: Koenigsberger’s study into the building as a performant clima- tological infrastructure in modern and vernacular built environments. was equated with a map showing “the chaos of networks” in the metropolitan Detroit area. 2 On the basis of this visual analogy, Doxiadis argued that the role of the architect was no longer that of a simple form-giver but more that of a coordinator of various infrastructural networks: “We must coordinate all our Networks now . All networks, from roads to telephones.” 3 Tom Avermaete looks at the work of three architects—Constantinos Doxiadis, Michel Ecochard and Otto Koenigsberger—who adopted new definitions of infrastructure and in the process demonstrated that architects and designers must see themselves not just as form givers of buildings but as networkers of infrastructure. A continuous network of centers and lines of communication [in which] all parts of the settlement and all lines of communication will be interwoven into a meaningful organism 1 —Constantinos A. Doxiadis In 1963, the Greek architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis descri- bed the city of the future as a complex network of infrastructures. Doxiadis substantiated his viewpoint by pub- lishing photographs of a spider’s web before and after the animal had been drugged with amphetamines. The dis- torted organization of the doped spider The Infrastructure of Bare Life: Another Definition of Housing from and for the Global South Tom Avermaete Fig. 1: A spider’s web before and after the animal had been drugged with amphetamines (source: Doxiadis, 1972). Fig. 2: the chaos of networks in the metropolitan Detroit area (source: Doxiadis, 1972). Tom Avermaete demonstr tes how the work of Constantinos Doxiadis, Michel Ecochard, and Otto Koenigs- berger expanded the definition of infrastructure, making it part of the development agenda. Regarding plan as an integrating framework rather than a fixed vision, these figures, despite their shortcomings, helped emphasize agency over one's environment as a fundamental need.