AMS CIAM 4 Mapping the City

CIAM 4: Even before the legendary fourth CIAM congress took place in 1933, its delegates intended to publish the results of the congress on ‘The Functional City’. However, during World War II the preparations for a comprehensive publication of the edited congress material were suspended. As a result of recent international research, the long-awaited publication on CIAM 4 will be launched at the 2-day event on October 28th and 29th in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

The Seminar: Reflections on contemporary approaches to the mapping of cities. The Van Eesteren-Fluck & Van Lohuizen Foundation (EFL), the Archives of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the ETH Zürich and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) are organizing a seminar on the mapping of cities on 29th of October 2014 in Amsterdam. The seminar will be held on occasion of the publication Atlas of the Functional City. CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis, which presents results of research into the comparative city analysis and maps exhibited at the fourth CIAM congress in 1933. The seminar Mapping the City invites scholars and speakers with an expertise in both, former and contemporary approaches to the imagination, representation and visualization of cities. Its intention is to provide a platform for an exchange of knowledge and critical reflection on contemporary mapping practices.

The Occasion: The publication of the Atlas of the Fuctional City. When a group of European architects and planners prepared for the CIAM congress in 1933 they felt that their field of expertise requires new definition. In search for responses to European-wide tendencies in social and economic policies and paradigmatic technological change they engaged in a common city analysis. Guided by shared ideas about spatial organisation, they mapped a broad range of cities and city regions, with the aim to raise attention for comparable challenges that political and technological transformations produced across Europe. As the publication Atlas of the Functional City shows, they delivered not only a compilation of beautiful maps of 34 European and colonial cities in 18 countries but also, as authors argue, a new and influential approach to planning. Essays included in Atlas of The Functional City examine the CIAM ’s working methods: they investigate the ideological aspects incorporated in maps, portray thematic mapping as an analytical tool, point at problems of abstraction, selection and interpretation in modernist mapping, analyse the visual language of the CIAM 4 maps and examine differences in the creation and use of maps under differing institutional circumstances in countries. In conjunction the research shows that it was not ‘big data’, detailed geographic information about specificities and evolutionary tendencies in distinct cities, which turned their operation into a success. Instead the mapping operation became influential through a purposeful reduction of issues, through abstractions that left room for interpretation and discretion, through a strategic combination of references to analytical evidence, political values and administrative practices in representations and through multiple associations of visualizations with emerging international cultural practices, evoked through a carefully constructed graphic language.

The Product: Publications on the Mapping of Cities. Which rationalities informed the production and use of maps in 1933? What were, in retrospect, the benefits and pitfalls of the comparative city analysis developed at the fourth CIAM congress? And how do these insights relate to insights into contemporary mapping practices? During the seminar these broader questions will be discussed under three guiding themes, which build up on the observation of three tendencies that influence the imagination, representation and visualization of cities today, notably (1) the opening up of sources of information and an associated a shift from government to governance in planning, (2) a growing importance of scale dynamics in regional and supra-regional spatial development and their influence on the design of cities and (3) the emergence of new communication technologies and media, resulting in a new language to exchange knowledge and ideas about the organization of cities and regions. Results of discussions will be published on several fora with the purpose to enhance attention for these issues and set out further investigations.