East Middle West

Exporting architecture and urban planning emerged as a valuable instrument in Cold War politics, the pretence and the means for cultural colonialism, with East and West aiming to carve out their respective spheres of influence in the Middle East.Starting in the 1950s architects and planners were invited to design modern urban developments, landmark buildings and housing projects.

‘… Eight master builders of the modern world – men of many tongues – are creating a new Baghdad. Among them are – by birth – a Frenchman, a Spaniard, two Germans, and American, a Finn, a Greek, and an Italian. Probably never before in history have so many famous architects worked concurrently in one place. The final result, barring possible curtailment by the Iraqi Government, is widely expected to be one of the modern architectural wonders of the world – a new city superimposed on this ancient, sun-baked capital.’

The eight master builders were Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, José Luis Sert, Gio Ponti, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto, Werner March and Constantine Doxiadis, and they were commissioned to produce city masterplans, state buildings, cultural and sports centres and housing projects.

Le Corbusier – Baghdad Gymnasium, 1958

C.A.Doxiadis, a Ford Foundation architect and planner, had already worked for the reconstruction of Athens after the WWII and he had developed theories on housing and urban developments (Ekestics, Dynapolis).
The commissioned housing and community facilities responded to the grave housing shortages in an effort to suppress discontent and prevent growing social unrest. The vast slums of  Baghdad were turned into a massive public works known as Revolution City (Naziha al-Dulaimi, C.A. Doxiadis).

C.A.Doxiadis – Sadr City / Madinat al-Thawra (Revolution City), Plan of Community Sector, Baghdad 1958

The employment of architects and planners from an Eastern Bloc country aimed to apply their experience of post-war reconstructions and redevelopments to the newly formed nations, but nevertheless, they were also political statements reflecting affiliations in Cold War politics. The East employed a different approach in construction commissions, stressing a vision of cooperation and solidarity, that would be mutually beneficial. City planning and social housing were central in bilateral agreements and would promote export material resources and also knowledge and expertise, introducing housing policies, research and education projects. Miastoprojekt, Technoexportstroy, Romconsult, Gorstroiproekt were some of the state-run construction bureaus that produced work not only in socialist and the non-aligned countries but in some occasion also in the West and they that would operate even beyond the end of the Cold War.

Miastoprojekt-Kraków, Mosque in Iraq, 1978

Institut français du Proche-Orient
C.A. Doxiadis Archives + Ekistics
BARI expeditions
Agata Pyzik
Lukasz Stanek

Giedion does not know why this should be

Ballynahatty Ireland

 Marshall McLuhan to Jaqueline Tyrwhitt | Dear Jackie: The old plate is piled very high indeed. I must forego any thought of a visit to Harvard this this Spring. Work here at the Centre has become more and more demanding. | Last night I was reading Finnegans Wake pages 492 to 505. I thought at once of writing to Giedion about it. In these pages Joyce runs through the letters of the alphabet from A to Z as a social cycle. When he gets to Z, the cycle begins again. He explicitly indicates the return to primal undiscriminated auditory space, then begins again the discovery of the vertical plane and enclosed space and numbers and measurement. Joyce is quite explicit that (page 501) as the alphabet ends its cycle we move out of visual space into discontinuous auditory space again. This he mentions as the return to “Lewd’s Carol,” that is, through the looking glass into the world of non-Euclidean space once more, lewd, ignorant, tribal, involved totally as in group singing. In his “Beginnings of Architecture” Giedion cites the evidence several times that there is no architectural enclosing of space before script. Giedion does not know why this should be. Visual space alone of all the space discriminated by our various senses is continuous, uniform and connected. Any technology that extends the visual power imposes these visual properties upon all other spaces. Our own return in the electric age to a non-visual world has confronted us suddenly with this tyrannical and usurping power of the visual over the other senses. Kevin Lynch doesn’t understand this matter at all. My own phrase for city planning is that the city has become a teaching machine. The planner’s job is to program the entire environment by an artistic modulation of sensory usage. Art is a CARE package dispatched to undernourished areas or the human sensorium. What the artist has formerly done on a private entrepreneurial basis the planner now must do on a corporate or group basis. This is equally true of education and government. Instead of worrying about program content, the job is now to program the total sensorium. | Understanding Media will be published May 26th by McGraw-Hill. You should be receiving a copy soon. | Had lunch with a Greek chap who is in the research division of McCann-Erickson. He is greatly interested in my proposal about a pre-TV study of the Greek population. We have our sensory typology experiments ready to go. I enclose a description of one of them for you. Our friend, Philip Deane, has left the UN to become Secretary-General to the King of Greece. He will be a great help in any matter that we undertake. | Please tell me your dates of departure and where I can reach you.
from: ‘Letters of Marshall McLuhan’ by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, William Toye.


‘Journées de Juin’, Haussmanisation’

La barricade de la rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt
Avant et après l’attaque
par les troupes du général Cavaignac
et du général Lamoricière
pendamt la révolte de juin 1848

Baron Haussmann Paris Plan

Avenue de l’Opéra
Avant et après le baron Haussmann