Originality and innovative nature of the project, and relationship to the 'state of the art' of research in the field
The ‘state of the art’ mainly approached the innovation in the façade, since the Modern Avant-Garde was also a search after a new style.
New technologies brought by industrial development were a central part of the global movement which was Modernism. Employing advanced construction technology of the time was common place, but not always the possibilities of the materials and systems had been yet researched enough. Thus one of the nuclei of the movement was built by the housing programme, particularly suitable to foster innovation. While in more industrialised countries ways to solve social problems were seeked for, in the other European countries the new possibilities were seen as an opportunity to give a more prosperous image to cities, by raising density with blocks of flats for the middle class. The followed principles were the refuse of an ornamentation lacking sense, the use of modern materials and construction ways, the study of new functionally bound typologies, especially a radical innovation in housing building. The use of the reinforced concrete skeleton made it possible to design different plans in floors laid one above the other.
Different from the case of the International Style, the individuality of the architecture and of the individual flat were conserved, also in cases when innovations like the stacked villa and or the serial plan were employed.
Thus innovation was no less to be found in the organisation of the plan in some of the co-existing styles. For example, the Italian Rationalism is better known and appreciated abroad than the Milanese Novecento. But Giuseppe Terragni’s buildings, the most innovative of the Rationalist style are excellent in what regards the plastics of the façade and the composition of the volumes. The floor plans, however, are rather traditional. In the plan of the Novocomum building in Como, the first building of Terragni, praised for the break with the traditional façade and for the way the natural environment, especially the lake, are integrated into common flats, treats the flats inequally, some of them having openings only towards the courtyard. In the Milanese Novecento the possibilities of the reinforced concrete skeleton were used to a full also in what regards the typology of the plan of the flat. Therefore it is needed that the movement is made better known on European level, also integrated in similar movements of the time in other countries. The stacked villa and the serial plan were recognised by Burg () to be of the innovations of the Milanese Novecento. But similar developments can be found in Romania. The Ottulescu building (1934-35, architect H. Creanga) builds a notable highlight: “the most modern and interesting approach in the whole Romanian interwar architecture” (Zahariade, 1992). It is an example of a free plan in a collective apartment block, not in the sense of the flexibility of spaces, but in the disposition of the apartments across the floors. The structural grid is not completely regulated and neutral, as one would expect for a perfect “free plan” example (see the Le Savoye villa by Le Corbusier), but, even if simple and clear, dictated by the spatial order of the 1st and 2nd floor. A two story duplex on ground floor and mezzanine, recessed from the street, takes advantage of the reinforced concrete structure. The relationship between the two can be explained through the existence of “other modernisms”, different of the main stream Modernism of the Avant-Garde. It is the aim of the project to focus on these other Modernisms, to see the interdependencies in different social and environmental contexts and to learn lessons for today.
Hardly can a better layout be conceived, respecting the modern typology, than the Greek block of flats on Zaimi and Stournari streets in Athens (1933-34, arch. Valentis and Michailidis), which “resemble many of the projects of the Italian Rationalists, in applying the constructional rationale of Le Corbusier, and indeed enhance the Corbusian syntax” wrote Constantopoulos (1999). Such affirmations are to be investigated, since, in the context explained, the innovative floor plan was not resembling Italian Rationalism but rather Italian Novecento. The project will put in context the Italian Novecento movement in the innovation of the floor plan as a response to the requests of the middle class multi-storey housing. Similar innovations were called for by similar conditions in Hungary, Romania and Greece, where the innovation in the façade was the main expression mean of the new style searched for since the new buildings were multi-storey constructions in a street front. It was another Modernism than that of the Western Europe, where Siedlungen appeared at the periphery of the cities and more attention was paid to the volumes.
The study will thus concentrate on European features of building stock which have not been covered by previous studies, namely the spatio-functional research of the interior organisation of the dwelling in the blocks of flats for the middle class.
A novel concept will be developed, which is the new definition of the character of a zone. For this purpose a modelling will be performed an a new, heterogenous model proposed. The study proposes a heterogeneous model in which a zone has instead of a unique function a unique vocation. Zoning results as a structural product in the superposition and interpenetration of textures (sub-systems of the life-frame elements able to respond to the functionally requested situation, an analytic instrument of morphological decomposition of the structure in architectural theory) of morphologic elements, thanks to the co-operation process of human activities. The character of a zone is defined by all the texture categories encompassed, and by the texture with the highest use value. This dominant character is given by the prior function in the zone, which co-operates with the others through the unifying homogeneity of the structure, assuring the heterogeneity of the “life“ and of the “frame“. There is a complex zoning with operational and organisational value.
A special focus is built by the wish to learn lessons useful for architecture today. Today the social purposes of the early XXth century translate into participative and communicative approaches. An early example of approaching the problem of participative planning is that of Christopher Alexander et al (1977). In the project the way his systemic approach could be adapted to analyse the functional structures in interior spaces of housing units of the early Modern will be investigated.
Alexander’s systemic approach also aims to give a key to solve environmental problems today. Today environmental problems are in the central of preoccupation in housing design, the way social problems were in the first half of the 20th century.