In the Renaissance, architecture gained momentum as a key player in the radical development of the city as a project. Eventually, the city became a powerful concept and the progressive rise of the bourgeoisie as the ruling social class granted political agency to the architectural discipline. Five centuries of permanent intercourse between architecture and the city resulted in what Leonardo Benevolo called “The European City”. Architecture performed a key role in consolidating the European City as a repository of collective memory and a shared cultural heritage. Throughout the 20th century, however, the power of architecture was challenged by political mantras and economical dogmas that stimulated architecture’s disciplinary retreat.
Through the Age of Extremes, as Eric Hobsbawm called the short 20th century (1914-1991), there were important contributions to re-configure the European City. For example, the social and spatial experiments with housing policies developed under the so-called Red Vienna testify to the active role of the state in addressing the social reproduction of labour power. Concurrently, in the interwar period, the conservative dictatorships in the south of Europe celebrated a pastoral view of the rural world as a strategy to react against the consolidation of the metropolis and promote, instead, the (re-) construction of an historical identity. In the post-World War II, the utopia of the functional city was hijacked to serve the welfare policies of the states sponsored by the Marshall Plan. Both in urban extension as in urban renewal, technocratic planning approaches were encouraged to back up a political program of de-urbanization inspired by the nemesis of the European city, the American suburbia. Eventually, in the 1980s, the paradigm of the state as provider shifted to the paradigm of the state as enabler. The European city became nothing but a commodity where the state performs as the facilitator for the consolidation of the hegemony of the markets. Nowadays millions of tourists flock to Lisbon, Paris or Rome looking for “experiences” of the European city, as the travel agencies advertise it. In London, to name but the most extreme case, investors from the Gulf, Russia and China are building premium-housing complexes to be sold for astronomical prices to wealthy customers that seldom have a European passport.
Over the last century, the concept of the European City as a repository of collective memory and a shared cultural heritage has lost momentum. Likewise, the architectural “project” of the city, as Pier Vittorio Aureli calls it, has been challenged. The role of the architect and the agency of the architectural discipline in the transformation of the built environment changed dramatically.
This issue of Joelho aims at mapping and discussing this transformation. Using a pars pro toto approach, we want to produce a critical cross-section of ideas and practices for the European City developed since 1914. We invite scholarly contributions that discuss how architects and the architecture discipline contributed to the production and reproduction of approaches to the (re)definition of the identity of the European city. The articles submitted should be focused on case studies of urban projects or strategies with potential to promote urban transformation. We welcome historiographical accounts of cases supported by original research as well as critical reviews of contemporary ideas and practices.
Authors of full articles (4000 words max, English language, APA Style) are requested to submit their contributions to the editors before 4 September, 2017. The editors will then select a limited number of submissions to go through a double blind peer-review process. This issue of Joelho will be published in December 2017.