Darryl Chen, 01 03 09

There is a received wisdom amongst 21st century urbanists that great damage was wrought upon cities by Modern Planning, with the 1933-penned Athens Charter as its Mein Kampf. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had never actually seen a copy let alone a referenced extract of this notorious text, all the while shaking my head at all the grade-separated pedestrian nightmares (sic), dysfunctional streets in the sky (double sic) and wastelands of open space under them (you get the picture). Never seen a snippet from the beast… until yesterday.

Here are some extracts which fill out a picture of a surprisingly nuanced document bristling with positivity and not nearly as much naivete and bombast as I had thought. Athens Charter, speak for yourself!

On scale:

Article 76: The dimensions of all elements within the urban system can only be governed by human proportions. 

Article 87: For the architect occupied with the tasks of urbanism, the measuring rod will be the human scale. 

On preserving the past and continuity:

Article 65: Architectural assets must be protected, whether found in isolated buildings or in urban agglomerations….The life of a city is a continuous event.

Article 49: The craft occupations closely bound up with the urban life from which they distinctly arise, must be able to occupy clearly designated places within the city.

On the complexity of the city:

Article 7: The rationale governing the development of cities is subject to continual change.

Article 91: The course of events will be profoundly influenced by political, social, and economic factors

On compact city form:

Article 46: The distances between places of work and places of residence must be reduced to a minimum

Present day norms:

Article 43: The rush hours betray a critical state of affairs.

Article 82: Urbanism is a three-dimensional not a two-dimensional science….

The idea of urbanity:

Article 75: On both spiritual and material planes, the city must ensure individual liberty and the advantages of collective organization.

Culminating in the final article:

Article 95: Private interests will be subordinated to the collective interest.

1 Comment

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  • 1. Nick  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Sounds quite good to me… on these few articles.
    Anyone to argue?

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