Fragments of an Ideal City


  • Dick van Gameren TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Pierijn van der Putt TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


samenThe two drawings most often cited from Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s now-classic study, Collage City, are probably those, set side by side, of Saint-Dié and Parma. Their juxtaposition visualizes the contrast between the traditional city, in which the open space is defined by the building mass (Parma), and the twentieth-century modern city, in which the building mass seems to be lost in an indeterminate open space (Saint-Dié). Each of the two drawings, dubbed figure-ground plans by the authors, seems to be the inverse of the other, and the authors draw a parallel with the figure-ground diagrams of Gestalt psychology. The black-and-white representation – literal and figurative – emphasizes the contrast between the two models to its utmost.

These plans are followed by a representation, drawn in similar style, of Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin. This design has become the embodiment of an architectural philosophy in which the modern city was presented, without a shred of hesitation, as the healer of all of society’s ills. Yet the Plan Voisin can also be seen as the traditional city and the modern city being slotted into one another. It is a fragment, albeit quite a sizable one, of the Ville Contemporaine, set in the heart of Paris. It creates an enclave, an area with its own, distinctive structure, imbedded in another structure and attempting to connect with it. A number of landmarks have been retained and the meandering blocks of the new layout make tentative contact with the Place Vendôme, which has not been erased. It is precisely this aspect of the Plan Voisin – the collision as well as the mutual adaptation of two apparently highly divergent visions of the city – that seems to fascinate Rowe and Koetter. Collage City is filled with many more examples of such enclaves, all drawn in that characteristic, almost polarizing style.

Author Biographies

Dick van Gameren, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Dick van Gameren is dean and full professor at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of Delft University of Technology, and partner at Mecanoo architecten in Delft, the Netherlands. Combining his work as an architect with a professorship, Van Gameren maintains a critical approach to design by lecturing, researching and publishing. In 2007, Van Gameren won the prestigious Aga Kahn Award for the design of the Dutch Embassy in Ethiopia. In 2008, Van Gameren founded the book series DASH (Delft Architectural Studies on Housing) and is since then editor in chief. At TU Delft. He leads the Global Housing Study Centre and is also board member of the Archiprix foundation, of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre in Rotterdam and of the Amsterdam based AMS Institute. He is also a member of the TU Delft Global Initiative Steering Committee.

Pierijn van der Putt, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Pierijn van der Putt (Eindhoven, 1973) studied Architecture at Delft University of Technology, the University of Illinois in Chicago and Drexel University in Philadelphia. He worked as an editor for Dutch architectural magazine de Architect for seven years before returning to Delft. There, in addition to being an editor for DASH (Delft Architectural Studies on Housing), he teaches academic research and architectural design for the group of Architecture and Dwelling. His particular interest lies in creative writing and in improving academic writing skills.