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On Reconstruction


World Trade Center Ruins, October 31st 2001
(Photo by AP, Anonymous Photographer, New York)

Destruction and Reconstruction 


Grande Place in Echternach with Basilica in Background
Pre-War Situation
(Photo from Joel Crawford's Archives)

The beautiful cities of the past have been agressed and destroyed, then rebuilt again and again so many times. Had there been times where humanity was not confronted to war, illness, corruption, wickedness, barbary and destruction?
 The 'Golden Ages',-- if there have been some --, they have always been exceptional and short!


Echternach and its Basilica
(Photo by Lucien Steil)
The historical city of Echternach has been blown up in 1945 by the Nazi occupants leaving a heavily destroyed city to the allied troops...The city and the basilica were rebuilt from 1950-1955 in a traditional manner and became the very paradigm of the Post-War reconstruction in Luxembourg.  


New Cultural Center in Echternach
by Rob Krier and Christoph Kohl

Now why should we expect architecture and city-building to express ugliness and horror, confusion and disorientation, homelessness and alienation? Why should architecture and city-building rather than build a human 'Patria', limit its role to celebrate the conflicts and shortcomings of our time?


View of Lustgarten from Stadtschloss, Potsdam
Pre-War Situation
(Photo from Katarxis Archives) 


View of Potsdam "Historical Centre" with Schinkel's Nicolaikirche
Post-War Reconstruction on Former Stadtschloss Site
(Photo by Willi Engel, Berlin)


Reconstruction of Stadtschloss Site and Lustgarten, Potsdam
Prince of Wales's Urban Design Task Force 1996
(Photo: Prince of Wales's Institute of Architecture)

Reducing architecture and urbanism to compulsively mirror the state of society and of contemporary apories is an absurd proposition in itself; there would  not have been any memorable, beautiful, inspring building, nor any comfortable and attractive city in the course of mankind's dramatic history! Never would architecture, urbanism and human arts have possibly developed into highly sophisticated and civilized arts! 


Shiny and Sculptural 'Zeitgeist' Statements
Unidentified Location
(Photo from Tripod Image Gallery)

Infact traditional architecture and city-building have always been ideals of harmony and beauty in a more often than not destabilized and disrupted and thouroughly imperfect world! Through centuries of glorious and tragical history, the traditional city has always remained a desirable model of urbanity, of civilization, of good life and of a possible and buildable utopia... 


Panoramic View of Luxembourg City
(Photo by Lucien Steil)
The contemporary view of Luxembourg's "Corniche" documents the admirable reconstruction of the city after its destruction by the troops of Louis XIV. In about five years the city was rebuilt by French architects and Italian and Austrian masons and carpenters. Despite the fact that the reconstruction endeavours were under foreign direction and execution and based on perfectly rationalized typological methodologies, the reconstructed city recovered entirely its identity and urban integrity, becoming more beautiful and comfortable than before, and reconciled with a memory of time and place!


View of Lisbon at the Beginning of the XXth Century
(Photo from Joel Crawford's Archives)
Lisbon had been substantially destroyed by the terrible earthquake of the 1st of November 1755
It was rebuilt according the plans and under the supervision of the Marquis of Pombal in he most beautiful and typologically rigorous manner.

Destroyed by natural calamities or human ones, the traditional cities have most of the time been rebuilt on the same place and according to the same principles. Through the aspirations of permanence, continuity and identity these cities were built on the ruins, footprints and memories of the old ones. Rather than being archeologically the same ones, these rebuilt cities were improved, embellished and perfected to adjust memory and modernity within the shared pattern of a collective urban culture.

Love of Ruins


House of  the Pansa, Pompei
by Gailhabaud
(Geschichte der Baukunst, Dr. D. Joseph, Leipzig, 1912)

"Life is a permanent process of reconstruction. The incapacity to rebuild results into an incapacity of life. Death is nothing else than a definitive interruption of  a reconstruction, which, though following a fixed plan and order, nevertheless allowed infinite, and always new and individual variations."
Leon Krier


Ruins of Old Rome
by Johann Sebastian Müller (after G.P. Pannini)


Forum Romanum, Rome
(Photo by Mary Ann Sullivan)
Archeological Heritage from Antique Rome: Archelogy without a Vision, or a Memory without Purpose, or  Love of Ruins?

In periods of decadence, the fields of ruins inspire nostalgy of glorious memories irremediately past.
In periods of desolation, even the most glorious ruins will never invoke more than ruins, and the unsignificant fragment of a value will be venerated as the value itself: the part is taken for the whole.
These are also periods where the part dictates its laws to the whole. 


Le Nouveau Quartier des Halles (1979)
 Reconstruction Proposal
by Leon Krier

In periods of reconstruction, a field of ruins has no proper value for itself, because it is  but one of these uncompleted building-sites asking  for an ever more splendid reconstruction.
To the mind  it inspires the image and this image will guide the construction."
Leon Krier 


Reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss
by Rob Krier (Krier & Kohl)


Calle de la Iglesia, Brunete (1946)
(Photo: Direccion  General de Regiones Devastadas, Madrid)

The Reconstruction of Brunete 


Plaza Mayor in New Town of Brunete (1949)
(Photo: Direccion General de Regiones Devastadas, Madrid)

Brunete, like many other cities and towns, was completely destroyed during the Spanish Civil War in July 1937. It was rebuilt less than ten years later as a part of the methodic reconstruction policy of the 'Dirección General de Regiones Devastadas' based on typological and morphological principles of the traditional Spanish town. Rather than commemorating by means of soulless monuments, the reconstruction effort aimed at honouring memory by the building of living foundations,  traditional towns commemorating life.
"La Dirección General de Regiones Devastadas, al encargarse de la reconstrucción de esta localidad, quiso resucitar la tradición española, medieval, de conmemorar hechos y rendir homenajes por medio de fundaciones vivas y no levantando monumentos sin alma."


Brunete after its Destruction in 1937
(Photo: Dirección General des Regiones Devastadas)

The town consisted of 340 houses, organized in 12 streets and two plazas and had 1526 inhabitants in 1935.
The new town was built on the site of the completely destroyed city, around its unvariable center: the old church creating a perspectival background to the Plaza Mayor.
The Plaza Mayor is the veritable civic center of the city with the City-Hall, Post and Telecommunication office, shops and housing, etc. It is porticoed on the ground level and built in local granite stone. A fountain in granite stone  and wrought iron ornament marks the center of the Plaza.


Typical Street Reconstruction, Brunete
Variety in Unity: Urban Block, Housing Typologies and Lot Definitions, Urban Vernacular and Traditional Architectural Pattern Language.
(Photo: Direccion General des Regiones Devastadas, Madrid)