Nicholas Socrates 4123875 Architecture Reflections TU DelftComparison of the Architecture Designs of Robin Hood Gardens, London and Residence Buffalo,Paris.IntroductionBoth Fernand Pouillon and the Smithson’s suggests a ‘wanting’ or a ‘need’ to change howarchitecture is conceived of and builtPouillon’s relatively monumental Residence Buffalo was built and acted as a catalyst to transformthe area or at least as a benchmark for Parisian post war social housing regeneration.This essay will also relate between the way the Smithson’s have managed their façade, their“skin” and how Pouillon’s design has dealt with the building surface; whether his design fits inwith the Smithson’s concept of creating a repetitive and non-stylistic façade; in order to create ‘ageneralizing aesthetic’, giving the sense of ‘ordinariness as the norm’.This essay will also touch upon the significance of ‘the tower in the park’, (evident in ResidenceBuffalo as an icon or landmark), and explore the relationships that Residence Buffalo has to theSmithson’s idea of ‘the building as a street’, the building (and its space) as an extension of thepublic sphere (for the residence).Residence Buffalo consists of 466 rooms, distributed around 5 different spaces.Residence Buffalo reflects and projects the Montrouge districts’ classical and memorablequalities. It is a residential complex with a character of monumentality.The Government launched a major campaign to build social housing from 1954. ResidenceBuffalo was one of the first operations instigated by the Comptoir National Housing Corporation(NLC) (the social housing campaign).The residence was named after the Buffalo Stadium, famous and popular before the SecondWorld War.The architect and urban planner Fernand Pouillon, born 14 May 1912 in Cancon (Lot-et-Garonne)and died at the castle of Belcastel (Aveyron) on 24 July 1986.Pouillon was one of the great builders of the years of the reconstruction after World War II inFrance. Much of his abundant work consists of housing;Fernand Pouillon was an innovative architect, both in his choice of construction methods and hisglobally renowned designs. The buildings that he built were of a relatively low cost, whilst heused quality materials and standards that were relatively high.He was guided by ideas about a precise and organized space and its inclusion in the city. Withinhis housing complexes, he provides a comfort similar to that enjoyed by the richest.His accomplishments are characterized by an insertion into the site, a building mass balance; bornof rigorous harmonic proportions, noble materials and his collaboration with local sculptors,potters and landscapers.He used forms from classical examples, such as; squares, or ‘malls’ (walkways), the plaza andvarious objects of urban furniture, especially the fountain.He paid great attention to the quality of public space that adjusts (almost contrasts) its context; ofa rapidly developing high urbanization.
The State policies set out to solve the problem of housing shortages in the context of post-warreconstruction and the succeeding phase of unprecedented demographic growth (the baby boom,the massive rural exodus, and then at the start of the 1960s; the reintegration of two millionpeople from Algeria). All these issues were initially expressed in the building of large collectivestructures, between 1950 and 1970.The marked preference from this period, on for the acquisition of property, for individualhousing; the rejection of the large collective groupings by the middle classes, and modification infamily structures, inspired the first waves of the building of individual housing estates. Themotivations which were offered as reasons for moving ahead are related much more to theconditions of housing (surface, space, cost, the desire to change from renting to propertyownership, and from the collective to the individual), than to a search for the advantages of arural environment.Robin Hood GardensRobin Hood Gardens is a social housing estate build for the Greater London Council. It wasdesigned in the late 1960s and completed in 1972. It is in Popler, East London, and when it wasbuilt, it was surrounded by working docks, which closed soon afterwards. Parts of the area arenow very wealthy, whilst others are extremely deprived. Its architects were Alison and PeterSmithson; a husband and wife team who built very few buildings, but had great charisma and aninternational reputation as innovative writers and teachers: their ideas did not only change howindividual buildings look, but also the way our cities are structured. Robin Hood Gardens consistsof two blocks of just over two hundred maisonettes; one block is seven stories high, and the otheris ten stories. These blocks are gently canted, so they shelter the central park from the noisyadjacent roads.Robin Hood Gardens is now populated by a largely Bangladeshi community. Many families areliving in cramped two bedroom maissonette apartments.The estate is currently threatened by demolition, as the council wishes to redevelop the wholearea. The 20th Century Society is campaigning to keep the buildings as they believe bothmagnificent piece of architecture, and that they can be refurbished to provide, much needed, goodquality housing. However, Robin Hood Gardens Gardens polarizes opinions; People either loveit, or hate it.Above the garden flats for seniors and families, which have direct access at ground level, theunits are stacked in groups of three floors (three times in the BTS Block and twice in the CTBlock. A very generous covered walkway on the middle floor of each of these groups providesaccess to three different types of maisonettes arranged above and below. The apartment entrancesare shifted to the side of the pedestrian deck, allowing for a sense of privacy. The resulting spacesare intended for flowers or plants, or as a utilities storage space. The maisonette stairs - running tothe crosswalks are located at the covered walkway and, behind the corridor which serves as anadditional buffer zone, lie the kitchens of all the units, and depending on the unit type, a spallroom with a toilet. These spaces like the rooms above and below, are orientated toward thetranquil lawn area in the centre of the complex. They are fitted with glass doors, which open ontoa narrow projected (escape) balcony. The (noisy) living rooms are separated from the bedroomsby the corridor and the bathroom and are located beneath the pedestrian decks. The repetitionimposed by financial constraints has been overcome by the variety of unit types within eachhorizontal and vertical section. Where the building bends is where the stairwell and the storagerooms are housed.It has many of the qualities good Georgian or Terrace Housing has, which is an order about it,from the base to the parapet, and the proportions are similar in the sense that they play a rhythm;by designing one bay and repeating it (to fill its urban context). The variation, which is overlaid
on top of it, makes it that little more bit interesting, with the large mullions for each of thedwellings.DescriptionThe Smithsons wanted to create something radical in response to the usual Post War Housingregenerations.The Smithson’s approached each new design problem with no formalistic preconceptions andsolved each problem by taking it back to the first principles. “Their aim is always to create animage that will convince and compel. When they demand that every building must be a prototype,an exemplar, for the cities of the future, they intend this not only to be read functionally, butvisually too.” 1The Smithson’s intention, and one of their main duties (thought their career) was to provideorder.The Smithson’s were the Fathers of the New Brutalism and were probably the greatest influenceof the Modern Movement in Britain after the 2nd World War.2This New Brutalism was opposed to the Picturesque or the imposed Classicism, but was a designwhich was inherent to each situationNew Brutalism was a major influence development of the modern movement – its mainpractitioner is Le Corbusier starting with the Unité.3The core of these ideas had been put into place in their 1952 competition entry for the GoldenLane Housing project. A sense of community they argued could be re-introduced — or re-identified—around the ordering device of ‘street decks’. All kinds of communal activities plusindividual yard-gardens connected to these streets in the air transforming them into places.4They utilized a similar technique employing a construction rack into which individual dwellingswere inserted similar to Corbusier’s UnitéFor the Smithson’s, their Brutalist ethic revolved around their duty to discover indigenoussolutions for a particular place at a particular time.With each new building they proposed a new order.Their forms were designed as a direct response to the specific site and program.Their Brutalist principle of specificity to each situation was a great challenge to the notion ofTeam 10s four functions, which was a central principle of the CIAMs Athens Charter in 1928 1 METRAUX, G. 1969. BOOKS-Livres, Team 10 Primer. Leonardo. 2 201-204 UK. The MIT Press. 317.2 WEBSTER, H. 1997. Modernism Without Rhetoric; Essays on the work of Alison and Peter Smithson. AcademyEditions. London. 142.3 SMITHSON A, & P.1952-1960. Ordinariness and Light: Urban Theories 1952- 1960. London. Faber andFaber 42. 4 SMITHSON A, & P.1952-1960. Ordinariness and Light: Urban Theories 1952- 1960. London. Faber andFaber 44.
The Functional City of CIAM (4th Congress) that Le Corbusier advocated, which was to;separate space into four categories;1. Distinct housing units, 2. Work, 3. Leisure and, 4. Transportation.The Smithsons were interested in ‘the status of ideas’ – taking accepted ideas and reorganizingthem, adding to them, or reformulating them.So the Smithsons searched for an order that linked these spaces of The Functional City (distincthousing units, work, leisure and transportation).It was the relationships and processes that counted/ that were significant. They stated: “Withoutlinks to our fellows we are dead”.5They proposed a conceptual system; with four city elements, or patterns of association, clearly; anew system of relationships that structured the city, they coined;1. The House, 2. The Street, 3. The District and, 4. The City.They defined the first element to be the ‘house’, the shell that fits man’s back, it looks inward tothe family and outward to society and how it is organized should reflect this duality. 44 Thestreet, is the second city element; a new idea being the multi-layered arrangement of streets inthe air. The third element is the district where our circle of friends resides, and finally theultimate community, the city, becomes an arrangement of such districts.DiscussionThe Smithsons sort after a design, of their “skin”, their building surface, in a repetitive and non-stylistic way, which the Smithsons called; a generalizing aesthetic, with the aim to create theirmotion of "ordinariness as the norm"; a sense of familiarity, which is not subject to the changingtrends of design.In a sense, the same concept is achieved in Pouillons design of Residence Buffalo, but in a verydifferent way. His building surface was by no means ordinary, but was not elaborate, but it wasrepetitive in the way he ordered his façade; he very skilled in his approach to materials and theoutcome was very much different to Robin Hood Garden’s.Here, then, Buffalo’s 466 homes and garages are organized; the plan of this residential complexoffers a clear hierarchy among the domestic; reserved for pedestrians (including the gardens, acircular pool, a mall/ passage way and plaza), and outside; the house (including the garages, andthe street), thanks to the great and long building aligned along the north side closing in the viewof the outside, the complex creates as enclave very successfully.The buildings range from 3 to 7 floors and a tower built on stilts, as to allow for a grater sense ofspace; extending the views of the gardens, and which also marks the centre of this urbancomposition.Apart from the tower, built of concrete, then painted and covered with hard stone, the buildings 5 SMITHSON A, & P.1952-1960. Ordinariness and Light: Urban Theories 1952- 1960. London. Faber andFaber 44.
are constructed of massive stone walls and at the front of one the three interior faces; are claddedwith pink marble slabs.We notice that the mullions and the board of the attic were painted black. Moreover, the facadesof the outside of the buildings of the marble courtyard are designed so that you do not see thenumber of floors, but only but the masses are observed within the same facade, coinciding withthe Smithsons concept of a generalizing aesthetic; whilst on interior of the complex the facadesdo indicate the floors, and by the array of windows; suggests the indication of the individual units- on the interior; giving the residents a sense of identity and community within that identity.The facade of the marble court does not read like a building of many floors, but of only twofloors; a high noble part and bourgeois part; resting on a base, topped by an attic or Mansard roof.The tower, composed of isolated layers of concrete, stone and glass, Positioned in the heart of theresidence; it is real and unvarnished; it becomes a remarkable and unique element of the complex.Referencing to the Smithsons ideological concept of the "tower in the park", and in this case;derived from traditional towers, the belfry or the bell tower of the Italian piazza, acting as thecentral point of the project found consistently throughout all urban complexes of FernandPouillon.As for the garages, they combine concrete and original masonry decorative bricks made of linedwhite cement mortar.Noble materials have been used; the main buildings are built with sober volumes limestone androck. Pouillon worked in collaboration with sculptors, potters and landscapers. The limestoneused preserves very well; a sand coloured stone; as it ages, turns golden coloured.Its counterpoints exalt the massiveness of the masonry walls: pink marble slabs placed in betweenthe pilasters of stone-lined hollow bricks, with cement mortar, which makes the texture of thewalls appear very rich.Materials have the potential to speak; they are static as individual elements, but when they arecombined, there are infinite possibilities, and they always say something new.There is iconography and symbolism in the facade. Robin Hood Gardens is of a rough concretestructure, which contrasts to Residence Buffalos monumentality.It suggests a way of life.The modulation of Robin Hood Gardens’ facades; their slab blocks were handled, by theSmithson’s with skill and confidence; using a system of repetitive concrete elements to create alyrical play of vertical fins along the length of the blocks.The two housing blocks were deliberately juxtaposed, not only to enclose the landscaped centralspace, but to create a charged space possessing the same monumental qualities as the crescents ofBath. Even the central grass mound is loaded with meaning - referencing to the primitive originsof man.The intellectual concepts and the intentions behind the scheme, some say, failed as a place forhuman inhabitation. Its hard concrete aesthetic and its huge forms alienated itself from its context,resulting in the formation of a ghetto of the lower classes.The Smithsons created this building, almost completely against, or opposed to, the establishedTeam 10 premise that "a buildings first duty is to the fabric in which it finds itself"
Maybe, this contradiction is due to the Smithsons earlier belief that contemporary society was soradically different from the society which previously proceeded it, which, they believed resultedin the obsolescence of the existing city, and it must have been this that led them on to theircontinuing search for radically new forms of habitation6Pouillon achieved the same sense of familiarity the Smithsons sort after; in an approach, whichwas very different; he appealed to the public’s sense of monumentality. Unlike the Smithsons, hedid not search for something completely different; something revolutionary, which in more timesthan not, would result in it being deemed as radical or alien, but Pouillon has his truth rooted inthe past, and instead of being at the for-front of design trends; he promoted and communicated, inthe designs of his buildings, something, too, substantial, but specifically monumental, which, in asense, was revolutionary, because it was, by no means, not complying with the present status quoof buildings being created in that time in Paris.In Post War Paris, lots of housing schemes were being built, and being built – fast. Speed ofconstruction was very important, at the time, therefore there were lots of prefabricated elementsconsistent to many buildings. Pouillon acted, or designed, in response to this monotony.Parisians are nostalgic for the old inner city. The humanism of Fernand Pouillons residencesfinds a contemporary echo in the search for an atmosphere, of large monumental buildings, suchas; the Place des Vosges.Fernand Pouillons architectural intention was "to build cheaper and better than anyone."His own created organization; the Comptoir National Housing (NLC), which buys land, developsthe project plan and then he leads and oversees the project on the site.Residence Buffalo is one of the first two housing schemes in the Paris region with the ComptoirNational Housing, the other being located in Pantin.The Pantin and Buffalo projects were executed in unusually short periods of time; with studiesand research taking only a few weeks, and he completes the build in 1 or 2 years, with a relativelylow price given the quality of building.Residence Buffalo is a low-key architecture, traditional, but with no extremes, comfortable in thedetails; however, it is luxurious in Parisian in the sense of the word.Fernand Pouillon was inspired by buildings of Seventeenth and Eighteenth neighborhoods of thecity and they were also inspired by the mundane, common place, yet charming houses in theFourth or the Sixth District, which were only worth their size and proportions and stone; theywere not extravagant or luxurious.Despite a high density, of Residence Buffalo, the most surprising quality of the complex is itsintimacy of the place; the quiet side of the complex (its interior), gives sensations almost identicalto those of a foray into a major property with its courtyards, large or small, always grounded.These feelings do exist in Paris; at the Palais Royal, Place Dauphine or the Place des Vosges.With the noise of the city on the outside, but within these enclaves, mostly what we hear is 6 WEBSTER, H. 1997. Modernism Without Rhetoric; Essays on the work of Alison and Peter Smithson. AcademyEditions. London. 77.
silence; a world in itself.In Residence Buffalo there are 2 openings in the complex; in two of the corners of the site. This isfor the interest of both the residents and the people of the neighborhood. The openings are there,as to, not to completely enclose the residence. Breaking apart the residential complex, leavingtwo gaps, again, psychologically or perceptionally giving the people a feeling of space andimplies a welcoming aspect; a way in, and also a way out.If you look at the plan of Residence Buffalo, the principles of geometric composition that thedesign achieves responding to its urban effects; Pouillon fits everything together so well, whilsthe allows it to be seen as a singular form; it creates an urban enclave, which is; a self sufficientstructure of merged different scales inside the same entity; the apartment, the gardens and thecomplex.There is a harmonious balance between the tall building (the seven story tower), the lowerbuildings (three and four floors), and the open space. The dimensional space is reduced for plantsand trees and open space, creating environments allowing for various uses, within its open(secondary public) space. The many open spaces within the complex are all varied. Every passageor opening becomes an opportunity to insert fragments of landscape into the composition. Alongthe gardens and paths of movement there is a highly scenographic and unexpected order andunity. Within the residence there is an intimacy of place; situated within the city - this inner placeis silent and calm; a world within itself.Both projects are dealing with the public realm, which are resolved in different ways.Like Residence Buffalo, Robin Hood Gardens creates a tranquil environment by arranging thetwo slabs (the buildings) protectively around the site, which acts as a noise protection barrieragainst the heavy traffic in the neighborhood. The centre remains open for the hilly, landscapedpark. The buildings are fronted by additional noise protection walls and rows of trees. The privateaccess road has been lowered to provide naturally lighting and ventilated parking spaces beneaththe buildings and the park, as well as a sense of psychological space.There is a communication in terms of accessHow the transition is made from the city to the ensemble, and vise versa; the relationship betweenthe outside space and the inside space, and the position of the building - how they are orientated;creating a boundary, a separation, with clear limits, to what is inside and what is outsideConclusionThe Robin Hood Gardens project can be seen as a lineage of thinking of contemporary housing,which started with the Golden Lane competition entry (1951-1952).In contemporary writing about the Robin Hood Gardens scheme the Smithsons discussed theircontinuing concern with the reformulation of a hierarchy of association in line with thecontemporary condition and in particular with the reinterpretation of the traditional street intostreets in the air. Their translation of these concerns into architecture form, were manifested inthe Robin Hood Gardens.The key concepts they used were, ‘identity’, and ‘association’. Every form of association, theyargued, has an inherent pattern of building that can be used to reinforce identity and community.They were looking for a new sense of order, a structuring system of relationships that wouldovercome the anonymity and loss of place in the city that destruction of both bombs and
unimaginative reconstruction had created.7However, before the design of Robin Hood Gardens it had already become apparent that high-rise, deck access living produced both social and practical problems.Evidently, now this is contradicted because Robin Hood Gardens’ ‘streets in the sky’ is in manyways a great success; allowing people to gather and children to play, behaving in a way youwould not be able to see in a corridor in, a hotel like, apartment building. There is life here, astrong sense of community, and it is very interesting.At the time of the build, Robin Hood Garden was not widely accepted, even now an eyesore,threatened with demolition, but at the time was strongly opposed, disliked and not respected; bothby the public and generally its residents.What the Smithsons failed to realize, or overlooked, in this project was that; existing fabrics holdmemory and therefore value, people accept change very slowly, and that cities themselves, too,are slowly evolving organisms.Contrastingly, Pouillon; in his approach solved the matter of contradiction between his concept(of monumentality) and of consideration of functionality (for the residents), in a low key,democratic, just and mature way.What is common to both architectural designs, is; the importance they give to, their intention tocreate an environment for the public; whether it is the ‘streets in the sky’, the enclosed spaces (the‘enclave’) the ‘mall’, the ‘plaza’, or the metaphorical ‘street’."The social structure of which the town planner has to give form, is not only different, but muchmore complex than ever before. The various public services make the family more and moreindependent of actual physical contact with the rest of the community and turned in on itself.."8Everything that you do in a city or place is a cultural experience: you go out into the public realm,into the street, you bump into people you might know, you chat with the people in the shops thatyou are now familiar with and you might discuss something with them for a brief moment. This isa civic act, it is a cultural act and it is a political act.We may all come from different cultures, but what we all have in common, is what we share: thepublic street.There is the relationship between one building and another, and the relationship between thebuilding and the open public space; the street or the square, and out of that relationship, theymerge and create something in the sense of a family, therefore a city can be seen, not as amechanical repetition or identical elements, but as a family. 7 METRAUX, G. 1969. BOOKS-Livres, Team 10 Primer. Leonardo. 2 204. UK. The MIT Press. 8 METRAUX, G. 1969. BOOKS-Livres, Team 10 Primer. Leonardo. 2 201. UK. The MIT Press.
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