<<Nous nous ennuyons dans la ville... L'hacienda,
tu ne la verras pas. Elle n'existe pas. Il faut construire l'hacienda....>>
"The city is boring...But you won't see the
hacienda. It doesn't exist. The hacienda must be built..."
Ivan Chtcheglov alias Gilles Ivain in Formulaire
pour un urbanisme nouveau October 1953
Formulary for a New Urbanism
SIRE, I AM FROM THE OTHER COUNTRY
We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the
Sun. Between the legs of the women walking by, the dadaists imagined a
monkey wrench and the surrealists a crystal cup. That's lost. We know how
to read every promise in faces--the latest stage of morphology. The poetry
of the billboards lasted twenty years. We are bored in the city, we really
have to strain to still discover mysteries on the sidewalk billboards,
the latest state of humor and poetry:
Shower Bath of the Patriarchs Meat Cutting Machines Notre Dame Zoo Sports
Pharmacy Martyrs Provisions Translucent Concrete Golden Touch Sawmill Center
for Functional Recuperation Sainte Anne Ambulance Cafe Fifth Avenue Prolonged
Volunteers Street Family Boarding House in the Garden Hotel of Strangers
And the swimming pool on the Street of Little Girls. And the police
station on Rendezvous Street. The medical-surgical clinic and the free
placement center on the Quai des Orfevres. The artificial flowers on Sun
Street. The Castle Cellars Hotel, the Ocean Bar and the Coming and Going
Cafe. The Hotel of the Epoch.
And the strange statue of Dr. Philippe Pinel, benefactor of the insane,
in the last evenings of summer. To explore Paris.
And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations
of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music
and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the
roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables
from an old almanac. Now that's finished. You'll never see the hacienda.
It doesn't exist.
The hacienda must be built.
All cities are geological; you cannot take three steps without encountering
ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends. We move within a closed
landscape whose landmarks constantly draw us toward the past. Certain shifting
angles, certain receding perspectives, allow us to glimpse original conceptions
of space, but this vision remains fragmentary. It must be sought in the
magical locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings: castles, endless
walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors.
These dated images retain a small catalyzing power, but it is almost
impossible to use them in a symbolic urbanism without rejuvenating them
by giving them a new meaning. Our imaginations, haunted by the old archetypes,
have remained far behind the sophistication of the machines. The various
attempts to integrate modern science into new myths remain inadequate.
Meanwhile abstraction has invaded all the arts, contemporary architecture
in particular. Pure plasticity, inanimate, storyless, soothes the eye.
Elsewhere other fragmentary beauties can be found -- while the promised
land of syntheses continually recedes into the distance. Everyone wavers
between the emotionally still -- alive past and the already dead future.
We will not work to prolong the mechanical civilizations and frigid
architecture that ultimately lead to boring leisure.
We propose to invent new, changeable decors....
Darkness and obscurity are banished by artificial lighting, and the
seasons by air conditioning; night and summer are losing their charm and
dawn is disappearing. The man of the cities thinks he has escaped from
cosmic reality, but there is no corresponding expansion of his dream life.
The reason is clear: dreams spring from reality and are realized in it.
The latest technological developments would make possible the individual's
unbroken contact with cosmic reality while eliminating its disagreeable
aspects. Stars and rain can be seen through glass ceilings. The mobile
house turns with the sun. Its sliding walls enable vegetation to invade
life. Mounted on tracks, it can go down to the sea in the morning and return
to the forest in the evening.
Architecture is the simplest means of articulating time and space, of
modulating reality, of engendering dreams. It is a matter not only of plastic
articulation and modulation expressing an ephemeral beauty, but of a modulation
producing influences in accordance with the eternal spectrum of human desires
and the progress in realizing them.
The architecture of tomorrow will be a means of modifying present conceptions
of time and space. It will be a means of knowledge and a means of action.
The architectural complex will be modifiable. Its aspect will change
totally or partially in accordance with the will of its inhabitants....
Past collectivities offered the masses an absolute truth and incontrovertable
mythical exemplars. The appearance of the notion of relativity in the modern
mind allows one to surmise the EXPERIMENTAL aspect of the next civilization
(although I'm not satisfied with that word; say, more supple, more "fun").
On the bases of this mobile civilization, architecture will, at least initially,
be a means of experimenting with a thousand ways of modifying life, with
a view to a mythic synthesis.
A mental disease has swept the planet: banalization. Everyone is hypnotized
by production and conveniences sewage system, elevator, bathroom, washing
This state of affairs, arising out of a struggle against poverty, has
overshot its ultimate goal--the liberation of man from material cares--and
become an obsessive image hanging over the present. Presented with the
alternative of love or a garbage disposal unit, young people of all countries
have chosen the garbage disposal unit. It has become essential to bring
about a complete spiritual transformation by bringing to light forgotten
desires and by creating entirely new ones. And by carrying out an intensive
propaganda in favor of these desires.
We have already pointed out the need of constructing situations as being
one of the fundamental desires on which the next civilization will be founded.
This need for absolute creation has always been intimately associated with
the need to play with architecture, time and space....
Chirico remains one of the most remarkable architectural precursors.
He was grappling with the problems of absences and presences in time and
space. We know that an object that is not consciously noticed at the time
of a first visit can, by its absence during subsequent visits, provoke
an indefinable impression: as a result of this sighting backward in time,
the absence of the object becomes a presence one can feel. More precisely:
although the quality of the impression generally remains indefinite, it
nevertheless varies with the nature of the removed object and the importance
accorded it by the visitor, ranging from serene joy to terror. (It is of
no particular significance that in this specific case memory is the vehicle
of these feelings; I only selected this example for its convenience.)
In Chirico's paintings (during his Arcade period) an empty space creates
a full-filled time. It is easy to imagine the fantastic future possibilities
of such architecture and its influence on the masses. Today we can have
nothing but contempt for a century that relegates such blueprints to its
This new vision of time and space, which will be the theoretical basis
of future constructions, is still imprecise and will remain so until experimentation
with patterns of behavior has taken place in cities specifically established
for this purpose, cities assembling--in addition to the facilities necessary
for a minimum of comfort and security-- buildings charged with evocative
power, symbolic edifices representing desires, forces, events past, present
and to come. A rational extension of the old religious systems, of old
tales, and above all of psychoanalysis, into architectural expression becomes
more and more urgent as all the reasons for becoming impassioned disappear.
Everyone will live in his own "personal cathedral;, so to
speak. There will be rooms more conducive to dreams than any drug, and
houses where one cannot help but love. Others will be irresistibly alluring
to travelers.... This project could be compared with the Chinese and Japanese
gardens of illusory perspectives (en trompe l'oeiI)--with the difference
that those gardens are not designed to be lived in all the time--or with
the ridiculous labyrinth in the Jardin des Plantes, at the entry to which
is written (height of absurdity, Ariadne unemployed): Games are forbidden
in the labyrinth. This city could be envisaged in the form of an arbitrary
assemblage of castles, grottos, lakes, etc. It would be the baroque stage
of urbanism considered as a means of knowledge. But this theoretical phase
is already outdated. We know that a modern building could be constructed
which would have no resemblance to a medieval castle but which could preserve
and enhance the Castle poetic power (by the conservation of a strict minimum
of lines, the transposition of certain others, the positioning of openings,
the topographical location, etc.).
The districts of this city could correspond to the whole spectrum of
diverse feelings that one encounters by chance in everyday life.
Bizarre Quarter--Happy Quarter (specially reserved for habitation) --
Noble and Tragic Quarter (for good children)--Historical Quarter (museums,
schools)--Useful Quarter (hospital, tool shops) --Sinister Quarter, etc.
And an Astrolaire which would group plant species in accordance with the
relations they manifest with the stellar rhythm, a planetary garden comparable
to that which the astronomer Thomas wants to establish at Laaer Berg in
Vienna. Indispensable for giving the inhabitants a consciousness of the
cosmic. Perhaps also a Death Quarter, not for dying in but so as to have
somewhere to live in peace, and I think here of Mexico and of a principle
of cruelty in innocence that appeals more to me every day.
The Sinister Quarter, for example, would be a good replacement for those
hellholes that many peoples once possessed in their capitals: they symbolized
all the evil forces of life. The Sinister Quarter would have no need to
harbor real dangers, such as traps, dungeons or mines. It would be difficult
to get into, with a hideous decor (piercing whistles, alarm bells, sirens
wailing intermittently, grotesque sculptures, power-driven mobiles, called
Auto-Mobiles), and as poorly lit at night as it is blindingly lit during
the day by an intensive use of reflection. At the center, the "Square
of the Appalling Mobile." Saturation of the market with a product
causes the product's market value to fall: thus, as they explored the Sinister
Quarter, the child and the adult would learn not to fear the anguishing
occasions of life, but to be amused by them.
The principal activity of the inhabitants will be the CONTINUOUS DÉRIVE.
The changing of landscapes from one hour to the next will result in complete
Later, as the gestures inevitably grow stale, this dérive will
partially leave the realm of direct experience for that of representation....
The economic obstacles are only apparent. We know that the more a place
is set apart for free play, the more it influences people's behavior and
the greater is its force of attraction. This is demonstrated by the immense
prestige of Monaco and Las Vegas--and Reno, that caricature of free love--although
they are mere gambling places. Our first experimental city would live largely
off tolerated and controlled tourism. Future avant-garde activities and
productions would naturally tend to gravitate there. In a few years it
would become the intellectual capital of the world and would be universally
recognized as such.