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Demolition Vs Renovation: an open question with regard to Middle-Class Mass Housing in the contemporary city


Alessandra Como

Luisa Smeragliuolo Perrotta


When the Pruitt Igoe in Saint Louis was demolished in 1972, nobody could imagine the echo across the time of the pictures that framed the explosion, that exact moment of the building collapse, while it was surrounded by the smoke of its own ashes. «Boom, boom, boom» - wrote Charles Jencks – linking the demolition of the housing complex to the end of Modernity and connecting this frame with the failure of models and policies about modern housing forever. After that, the photo showing the Pruitt Igoe that implodes became famous and it recurs in any discussion about the demolition of buildings. The recent demolition of the Robin Hood Gardens complex in London designed by Alison and Peter Smithson was preceded by a long debate that involved the world of architecture and institutions over the national borders. It ended with a melancholy epilogue, and a fragment of the building has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2008 by the Victoria and Albert Museum which purchased it before the entire building was demolished.

However, the term demolition in architecture is also linked to the speculation that is often behind the real estate interventions that bring advantages demolishing and rebuilding rather than reviewing the existing complex.

This session proposes a reflection on the demolition/renovation dichotomy through case-studies concerning Middle-Class Mass Housing.

We aim to assemble a series of case studies which could be studied comparatively in light of understanding what factors led to demolition or building development. We are looking for studies and researches that investigate how demolition or renovation of MCMH design projects contributed to the current transformation of the city. What was their impact? What was the scenario before, and what came after? Which discussion have they opened for the future of the city?

The aim of this session is to explore the dichotomy demolition/renovation as an opportunity to rethink the topic of housing within the contemporary city.

Short bio

Alessandra Como

Associate Professor in Architecture at the University of Salerno. She graduated at the University of Naples, where she also received a PhD in Architectural Design. She began her university career in the U.K. and the USA teaching design studio courses and history and theory courses at various architectural schools – WSU, Architectural Association, University of Manchester. Research topics focuses on the relationship between Design Process and History & Theory.

Luisa Smeragliuolo Perrotta

Research assistant as well as an associate lecturer in the

architectural design studio courses at the University of Salerno. She graduated at the Faculty of Architecture of the 2nd University of Naples. PhD at the doctoral school at the University of Salerno with a thesis on the measure in the architectural design. She participated to various workshops and design competitions on the topics of urban and architectural design and landscape.

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