CIAM Summer School 1956
In the history of the CIAM, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, the importance and significance of the summer schools organized by the organization have not yet been recognized. They were peculiar events where the ideology of the organization had to be divulgated among a younger audience. Especially the 1956 summer school was an interesting one. 1956 was the year of the dissolution of the CIAM. Le Corbusier had tried to prevent this with his plea for a ‘CIAM Seconds’. He ended his plea with the words: ‘Act so that the CIAM continue in their creative passion, in disinterest, reject the opportunists or hot heads.’ Apart from disagreements of the management and future purposes of the organization there was also a language question. Members had been complaining for some time that discussions were often held in German and French and that some participants were unable to intervene due to the language. English became triumphant in the world.
From August 8th till September 2nd 1949 a CIAM summer school was held in London. Preparations had been made since the spring of 1948. The school had to focus on the reconstruction of urban centers, a theme that would also be central to the CIAM congress on the heart of the city. Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto and Sigfried Giedion were supposed to give key talks but the event, planned for later that year, was eventually postponed. The summer school that was held a year later was organized by the English MARS group. Maxwell Fry, assisted by Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, was the main responsible architect. The theme was related to four study objects: a housing scheme, a large office building, a national theatre and a traffic problem. The ambitions were thus diminished from the scale of a city to the scale of an architectural object. The next summer school, under auspices of Italian architects, was to be held in Venice. In the report on Architectural Education of CIAM 8 the commission, of which Gropius, Ernesto N. Rogers, C. van Eesteren, Giedion, Serge Chermayeff and Jacqueline Tyrwhitt were part, stated that ‘members of CIAM must take the initiative in bringing all schools, wherever they may be located, in sympathy with the principles of the CIAM into the closest possible contact and to provide opportunities for direct interchanges such as CIAM summer schools’. At the same congress also the establishment of Junior CIAM Groups was decided in order to achieve more interest from students and recently graduated architects. A call went out to architectural schools in Europe to participate but only four positive answers were received, namely from Basel, Zagreb, Paris and Karlsruhe. The division between young and old was not really appreciated. In many countries younger architects had already infiltrated the established groups and were letting their dissident voices heard. Nevertheless the CIAM was still interested in spreading their vision among students of a younger generation.