18 October 2022

Session Title:
Overlapping Ideological Structures through Space and Time

Tabula Rasa: The City as Laboratory
The Ideological Neutralisation of the ‘City’ in Western 20th Century Architectural Discourse

UC Chile

Respondent: Laurence Heindryckx, Ghent University

Left, Model of the Grande Axe project, 1991, ©OMA Archive.
Right, Model of the Plan Voisin Le Corbusier, 1922.

This dissertation reconstructs the role of the expression tabula rasa in Western architectural discourse about the city during the twentieth century. Specifically, the research focuses on this idea's material and conceptual translations into a set of ideological neutralisation tools in the context of urban transformations. The expression tabula rasa, better known in Western philosophical discourse as a metaphor for the malleability of the human mind, emerges in the architectural debates at the end of the twenty century to describe different operations that put into practice the overlap of modern rationality on existing reality such as: the material demolition and destruction of entire partsof cities; a non-linear understanding of historical time and references; the use of disruptive representation techniques. The thesis argues that the tabula rasa is the most powerful and, at the same time, problematic legacy of modern architectural discourse in the urban realm since it unveils the interconnection between the modern ideas of progress and novelty and the implicit installation of a culture of erasure. In this way, the city becomes a laboratory, an available space for testing new economic, political and social experiments. At the same time, the installation of these ideas implies a series of negative externalities, which are still little discussed in the architectural debate, such as the overproduction of building waste, overexploitation of resources, and social injustices resulting from dispossession and forced evictions. This dissertation explores the idea of tabula rasa through the investigation of some of the design and intellectual works of three canonical figures of 20th century architectural and urban theory and directly involved in its dissemination: Le Corbusier, Kenneth Frampton and Rem Koolhaas, specifically their early writings and interconnected ideas about the city and


The Spanish Colonisation of Andean Time:
Urban Life in Andean Cities
during Early Colonial Times

UC Chile

Respondent: Manuel Saga Sanchez Garcia, Dumbarton Oaks

Santiago 1615. The oldest known image of Santiago shows how architecture is constituted as a system of signs. Derived from the mestizo urban imaginary of the indigenous chronicler Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, he represented an idealised version of the city as a mediaeval tale of chivalry and conquest, framed by an assorted array of both european and andean architectures. Source: Royal Library of Denmark.

This project investigates how models of spatial representation and reproduction of astronomical time served as instruments for colonial projects in the Andean region of America during the XVI century. In particular, this research studies the formative stages of the city of Santiago, Chile, first as an administrative centre built during the Inka conquest of the Andean territories, re-founded later by Spanish conquistadors as a Hispanic colonial city. Cities like Santiago share a common two-fold colonisation process, where urban space represents the ontological dispute between the Andean and Hispanic worlds. Despite a historical antagonism, Inkas and Spaniards largely coincide in the strategies deployed during their corresponding colonising campaigns, where the foundation of administrative centres was instrumental for the organisation and synchronisation of the empires, due to the introduction of systems of spatio-temporal order. Largely linked to religion, space and time became intertwined in social and productive cycles, implementing astronomical calendars that were represented by means of architecture and spaces built into the urban fabric. The christianisation of local calendars and the opportunistic occupation and resignification of sacred spaces, helped to inadvertently preserve some indigneous features. The hierarchical role reserved for spaces of religious worship, symbolically integrated into day-to-day life, meant that cities worked as devices to set and reproduce certain individual and collective ritual performances that facilitated implanting the culture of the coloniser, while reformulating that of the colonised. Here, the Spanish conquest meant not only a radica break in the trajectories of indigenous lives, but also a complete redraw of most systems of knowledge, directly impacting the cultural significance of both existential and historical time. The proposed study will examine the effect of colonisation on the experience of everyday urban life during early colonial times.

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