28 October 2010

Pasolini and the shape of cities

Here two marvelous must-see documentaries by P. P. Pasolini.

Le mura di Sana (The walls of Sana) is a film shot in 1970-71 when Pasolini was in Yemen on the location for his movie Decameron:  he addresses it directly to UNESCO, calling for the preservation of the old city of Sana'a, under threat in a period of rapid and aggressive modernization process in the country. In '74 he adds then a sequence with interviews of people about the Italian medieval village of Orte, not far from Rome, which will be the subject of the following documentary.

Pasolini e... la forma della città (Pasolini and... the form of the city) was shot in autumn 1973, sponsored by Italian National TV Company RAI: even if there is some editing by Paolo Brunatto, the film can be easily attributed to Pasolini, who chose to speak about the shape of cities, focusing on Orte and on Sabaudia, one of the five new cities founded by Fascism on the Thyrrenean sea, as part of the national reclaiming program for marshland. Pasolini conceives a "city" referring mainly to its shape and sticking to the idea of a compact, (medieval) core, defined by clear boundaries between built land and nature. With Orte Pasolini can deal with building speculation and its aesthetic consequences; with Sabaudia he addresses Italian '60-'70 socio-cultural changes, comparing them to Fascism.

12 October 2010


Renovated Plattenbauten: extra metal-frame balconies in light-blue, existing ones with new blue glass-bricks.
If you can stand a bit of Ostalgie and have a Sunday off, the Plattenbaumuseum in Berlin Hellersdorf is worth the visit: in Hellersdorf, part of GDR, between 1976 and 1986 were built roughly 42.000 prefabricated concrete-slab apartments (Plattenbau), the majority of which consisting of WBS-70 typology. This type was characterized by a modular raster or 6 x 6 mt., a depth of 12 mt., floor height of 2.80 mt. usually rising till the 5th, 6th or 11th floor. A building with 30 apartments could be built in 4 weeks, 18 hours per apartment. In a WBS-70 could live a couple with one or two children, or a couple with no children who needed an extra working-room.

General WBS-70 plan.
Kitchen: note the all-present wallpaper.
The company in charge of the renovation wanted to show how the original situation was, compared to the "new" apartments: in fact you can also visit the very next renovated apartment and see the difference. Getting rid of a partition wall and of wallpaper, reducing the rooms from three to two, adding an extra balcony, external insulation and increased care of the green spaces are quite easy moves. What unfortunately is harder to change is the absence of mixes functions in the neighborhood, and the relative distance from the city center (at least the perceived one) and from the Ring that runs across Berlin. One has anyhow to say that an underground station lies quite close to the blocks.

Two apartments at ground floor share the garden.
Ongoing renovation: note the external insulation being "attached" and the effort with colors.
New entrance with shed. Again the color-attempt.
An example of Plattenbau-description that escapes (n)ostalgia is "Platte mit Aussicht", a film-documentary on the Dresden-Gorbitz quartier.

More and high-quality pics here.

Housing Problems - London 1935

In 1935 Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey, John Taylor and Ruby Grierson filmed Housing Problems, sponsored by the British Commercial Gas Association, an attempt to tackle the problem of slums in the outskirts of East London, seen both from the perspective of experts of planning and architecture (from whom we hear only the voice) and slum-inhabitants, exposed to the camera via direct interviews.