PAST TALKS 2022

12 April 2022

Shining Steel Tempered in the Fire:
The Architecture of the Factory,
Manchester 1760-1915


GEORGE JEPSON
The Architectural Association

Respondent:
Aleksandr Bierig
Harvard GSD




Following my initial research into the etymology of the term ‘factory’ as it developed through varying Islamic, Venetian, Portuguese and Dutch Empires, the research of Chapter II: Legislation and Law turns back towards England; returning to the hub of both industry and colonisation – two inherently interrelated phenomena – to explore the architectural manifestations of its labour, real estate, and trades policies as they developed across the 19th century. While my research takes the national context as its entry point, much of the policy interventions were themselves of course national, the legislative liberalisation that was spearheaded by the new industrialists of Manchester and provoked a spate of self-conscious building explicitly performative of the new politics (and new money) of the city itself. By taking architecture as expressive of radical changes in governmental policy – as it pertains to free trade and labour rights – as well as the massive demographic changes imposed by industrialisation and its concurrent immigration, I seek to explore the relationship between domestic production and colonial extraction as it was manifested in the industrial hub of England across the 19th century.


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Modelling Socialist Society:
Cybernetics Hits East German Urban Theory


LEA MARIE NIENHOFF
HEAD Genève/University of Basel

Respondent:
Nikolay Erofeev
University of Basel



Illustration of a study on the visual conditions of men determining his impression of the city. Source: Hans Schmidt, Rolf Linke, und Gerd Wessel, Gestaltung und Umgestaltung der Stadt, (Berlin: VEB Verlag für Bauwesen, 1970).

The introduction of cybernetics into urban planning during the 1960s promised no less than to create the optimal socialist city. Once the scientific law for the aesthetic perception of architecture was found, once the ideal space-time relation would be reflected in urban plans – the “developed” socialist society would come to fruition. Discussing both the state decreed discourse as well as internal debates, offers a distinct perspective on the influence of system thinking on architectural theory and urban planning in East Germany. Walter Ulbricht, the first secretary of the Socialist Unity Party until 1971, evaluated the gain of system theory to be found in the management of the East German society. Yet planners and architectural theorists such as Hans Schmidt and Bruno Flierl applied cybernetic concepts to develop a more holistic understanding of architecture and to formulate a critique of the prefabricated housing landscape in the seemingly neutral language of system theory. Building on contemporary scholarship that has excavated the cybernetic thinking of planners and politicians from the 1950s onwards, this research expands and disrupts the historiography of cybernetic urbanism by excavating conflictual positions and opening it up to the commentary of artists and theorists of the time.


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