This project investigate historical artifacts that acted “in support of the city” (also the title of the seminar). The students/researchers consulted archives, conducted interviews, constructed diagrams, and produced films in order to narrate the findings. Acting as architectural detectives, the researchers interviewed Denise Scott Brown on the phone, spent time at the Art Institute’s Hilberseimer Archive, discussed Banham with the BBC, and recalled memories on the Transcripts with Bernard Tschumi.

A screening of the sixteen videos took place on April 30 at UIC’s School of Architecture. Special thanks to the critics Penelope Dean, Jayne Kelly, Bob Bruegmann, and Geoffrey Goldberg.


Urban Spielräume exist at the threshold between the building volume and public space, where the city is inhaled into architecture and where architecture extends into the city —where one is infused by the other. It’s the space where architecture opens up to the city and invites alternative inhabitations. A catalog of these spaces from across the centuries became the basis for the drawing of a City of Spielräume, an urban scroll that thematizes the different spatial conditions. Each drawing highlights four precedents and combines these spaces into one urban condition. The first drawing, for examples, blends London’s Lowther Arcade, Paris’s Galerie d’Orleans, Berlin’s Friedrichstrassen Passagen, and Trieste’s Palazzo del Tergesteo–essentially generating an arcade urbanism. Since each example comes with its surrounding buildings, each drawings is also a composite of those cities.


Mexico City’s dramatic historical evolution, rapid urban expansion, unprecedented population growth, exuberant modernist ambitions, and ever-renewing spatial inventions catalyzed a city that constantly hovers between the forces of the city, the ambitions of architecture, and the ingenuities of the everyday. The original city of Tenochtitlan, built on an island at Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in the 14th century, was the largest city of the Pre-Colonial Americas before it was occupied by Spanish colonial rule in the 16th century. Subsequently, a new city was built on top of the existing one, effectively doubling the urban network, covering its rivers to become streets, building Catholic churches above Aztec temples, and converting the ceremonial center into the seat of colonial power. Adapting an existing context and inventing a new one seems to be in the ether of the city. After all, today’s Greater Mexico City counts 22 million inhabitants and occupies over 3,700 square miles with half of its architecture built without regulations or permits yet filled with spatial, programmatic, and material ingenuity. The field trip sought to understand this tension: the tension between the formal and the informal, between planned avenues and makeshift markets, between geometric plazas and sinking houses, between colonial churches and ancient ruins.


“This great city of Tenochtitlán is built on the salt lake, and no matter by what road you travel there are two leagues from the main body of the city to the mainland. There are four artificial causeways leading to it, and each is as wide as two cavalry lances. The city itself is as big as Seville or Córdoba. The main streets are very wide and very straight; some of these are on the land, but the rest and all the smaller ones are half on land, half canals where they paddle their canoes. All the streets have openings in places so that the water may pass from one canal to another. Over all these openings, and some of them are very wide, there are bridges. . . . There are, in all districts of this great city, many temples or houses for their idols. They are all very beautiful buildings.” — Hernando Cortés, Tenochtitlán, 1521.

“[Mexico City] is the ultimate world city: ultimate size, ultimate in population, ultimate in threat of paralysis and disintegration, ultimate in the problems it presents …” — Peter Geoffrey Hall, The World Cities Series, 1984.

City of Architectural Fiction

Journal of Architectural Education (JAE 72:1) published the “City of Architectural Fiction” drawing (previously on view at Lisbon Triennale, 2016) as part of the Discursive Image series.

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Overall CampoMarzio (low-res)Collective drawing of a “modernist” Campo … the project of architecture as that of the city. (image zoom)

This project revisits the question of the city and who is building it. It asks if architecture can move beyond itself, i.e. beyond the one-off building form and towards an architecture of the city. This, of course, raises a host of questions: How can architecture be effective as a planning device? Is there a scale at which architecture ends and planning begins? And, most ambiguously, is designing a city still possible today?

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