The Modular: An Analysis into Generative Architecture
PhD Candidate, Architectural Association, School of Architecture London
Le Corbusier’s city grids, domestic layouts and the Modular are generally considered to be expressive of the spatial innovations of the new sciences, thus providing an homogenous, quantitative, infinitely extensible continuum.
Jack H. Williamson  reads this into the alleged ‘dematerialization’ of Le Corbusier’s interiors and christens it the ‘anti-object paradigm’. He considers this spatial development to be parallel to the loss of autonomous individuality under the new collectivist and determinist social and psychological sciences.
Andrew McNamara  similarly reads Le Corbusier’s grid as an evidence of a desire to collapse all boundaries – natural, spatial, social and aesthetic – into an undifferentiated field. Le Corbusier is apparently committed to imposing this field at all levels, ‘to transform it into a broad social vision encompassing every aspect of life’.
According to Richards; although these readings maybe applicable to other modernists grids, they are not applicable to Le Corbusier.
This Paper proposes to challenge Richards assumptions and tries to prove that, through Le Corbusier’s final project; the Venice Hospital 1964-65, the Modular formulated a code that is capable of articulating dynamic, generative architecture.
The Modular: An Analysis into Generative Architecture
PhD Candidate, Architectural Association, School of Architecture London
Le Corbusier tried to embed …ideas in Jullian’s mind during their early discussion, but ultimately the most novel and powerful ideas came in the few sketches Le Corbusier showed him later. The key to the project was there, presented in a completely unprecedented way. Mazzariol added,
The young Chilean architect who for several years had been living like a moine in the atelier, realized in bewilderment that something quite unprecedented was taking place … Was this the beginning of a new architecture? The drawings were made of few strikingly precise indications; the form was spatial and the space developed in a regular movement like the ripples sent out by a stone dropped into a pond. No previous design had ever evolved so easily and so quickly.
Giussepe Mazzariol 1966
Introduction: Drawings to the Grid in Le Corbusier’s Design Strategy
The core challenge in translating Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital project 1964-65 conceptual drawing remained in defining the order – the systematic content of the project defined by repetition and numbers - understood as a given, as a matter of strategy. This design strategy of systematic repetition remains the core element in identifying the dynamics of the city of Venice and its replication in the form of Generative Architecture.
According to Le Corbusier’s primary assistant in the Venice Hospital project, Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente; the real question in the Venice Hospital project, arose at the level of tactics; on how to manipulate the number, the structure, the module and the pattern to become architecture – that generates its essential dynamics.
The above discipline was mastered by rigorous calculations and testing. Sometimes the precision of the building elements and their sequencing in extension were so complete that the building plans turned into virtual musical notations: One day while working on the drawings for a huge longitudinal section, which covered the complete atelier space in Venice, Jullian along with other assistants decided to ‘play’ the hospital building. Each member of the team selected a different sound and Jullian assigned to each ‘instrument’ a building element – piloti, ramp, vault, partition – as ‘notes’. Then acting as an orchestra conductor, Jullian followed the section by keeping a constant rhythm.
Although the above exercise in all probability seems possible, it is a highly subjective approach, an abstract rationality and therefore not feasible for further investigation unless taken as a geometric and mathematical exercise – with the key note being the sense of or a return to order. In an attempt to understand this definition of order, it seems imperative to briefly examine Le Corbusier’s architectural philosophy.
1.1 Spirit of Age – Spirit of Geometry
Le Corbusier architectural philosophy defined the post war 1914-18 sentiments, it was an era of strong reaction against the anarchy and uncontrolled experimentalism of the pre-war avant-gardes. As such, according to Colquhoun , a ‘return to order’ was deemed necessary. For some French artistic circles this meant a return to conservative values and for others it meant an embracing of the imperatives of modern technologies. The situation was further rendered complicated by the assimilation of cultural pessimists like the poet Paul Valery and technological Utopians like Le Corbusier both invoking the spirit of classicism and geometry.
Banham  believed that Le Corbusier defined a specific modern sentiment found in the ‘spirit of geometry’ with exactitude and order and its essential condition. This sentiment according to McNamara , equally sought to encompass more than a reductive functionalism derived from the logic of contemporary economic processes. The mix of the mass, the serial and the geometric provided a recipe for uncovering the gestalt of a higher aesthetic and spiritual order.
Ozenfant, Le Corbusier’s colleague in the 1920s remarked that, ‘mass production had led to the desire for perfection’ thus implying that it led to an ideal model but not an end in itself. He maintained that all human perception is gauged through a geometric filter of sensations, and argued that since it is one of man’s passion to disentangle apparent chaos, then mathematics, geometry and the arts are all forms of apparatus that reduce the incomprehensible to credible forms.
According to McNamara , the technological viewpoint of the avant-garde owed much to the mystical, theosophical and Neo-Platonic interpretation of art characteristic of Itten or Kandinsky. Schlemmer’s diary entry of 1915 marked the impact of these ideas on his early artistic formulations: ‘The line is traced with pure cold calculation; crystal appear; cubic forms. Universal application towards the mystical.
Schlemmer referred to the path towards the incomprehensible in the simple basic forms – while Ozenfant subsequently proclaimed the transformation of the incomprehensible into credible forms. These somewhat mystical declarations could be readily channeled into rhetoric advocating the establishment of objective criteria necessary for the new order of rational precision, while still maintaining a pronounced spiritual emphasis. In response to the reformulations of these conceptions, Schlemmer raised what became a common concern amongst the avant-garde – a search for fundamental constants found in ‘credible forms.’
It may have been this search of ‘credible forms’ in formulating an ideology of modern painting, that Le Corbusier along with Ozenfant developed many of architectural ideas/philosophy that was later documented in L’Esprit Nouveau. According to Colquhoun , in Apresle Cubisme  and in the essay ‘Le Purisme’ an idea that played an important part in Le Corbusier’s architectural theory was introduced, that of the object-type. In these texts the authors praised Cubism for its simplification of forms along with its method of selecting certain objects as emblems of modern life. Ozenfant and Le Corbusier claimed that, ‘ of all the recent schools of painting, only Cubism foresaw the advantages of choosing selected objects…but by a paradoxical error, instead of sifting out the general laws of these objects, Cubism showed their accidental aspects.’ Thus by virtue of these general laws, the object would become an object-type its Platonic forms resulting from a process analogous to natural selection, becoming ‘banal’ and susceptible to infinite duplication, the stuff of everyday life.’
According to McNamara, Geometry, mathematics and art combined to realize the universal forces – regulated, measured and complete and thus shifted everything from the domain of ‘sensory origin to that which excludes natural doubt’ – corresponding to Wells pronouncement of the imminent movement ‘from dreams to ordered thinking’.
Le Corbusier similarly proclaimed an elevation to the spiritual in art. For him geometry represented ‘the language of man’ and he aimed to transform it into a broad social vision encompassing every aspect of life. His starting point for this was ‘that key site of modernity – the metropolis – as is evident in his Voisin Plan of 1925.’ In this proposal for restructuring Paris, a grid plan was devised as means of evoking the precise and harmonious relations that only become possible in the ‘great epoch’.
As he wrote in Towards a New Architecture: the spirit of functional utility found expression in a sense of order: The regulating line is a satisfaction of a spiritual order which leads to the pursuit of ingenious and harmonious relations … The regulating line brings in this tangible form of mathematics which gives the reassuring perception of order.
According to McNamara, in the Voisin Plan Le Corbusier used the grid layout to bring the modern metropolis into line with the ideal relations that had only been glimpsed in mass production. The plan also revealed that social utility and aesthetic form could be identical in the grid. The plan lived up to its name by employing notions of bordering or neighboring as a central device. The design, however did not simply aim to suggest any continuum of adjoining patterns and endless additions – neighboring. Rather it sought to elaborate and weave the order of all orders at the base of chaos – this characteristics remains an important definition of generative architecture.
Voisin evokes a design which is at once, a founding base and also its most elevated and refined form. The grid thereby erases its imprint as artifice by mapping the structural form of the city which enables ease of passage through the chaotic energy of the modern metropolis.
Recalling the grand schemes of Sant’Elia, the project emphasizes conjunction and flow and acts as an ‘inhering mechanism inseparable from the body of the world and operating on it from within. The process of geometric filtering ideally constituted a form of dispersal rather than a centralization of the ‘scopic drive’ it offered a creative silencing of the urban cacophony and the confusion of form.
Hence the grid functioned as the ideal exemplar of the generative architecture; ‘progressive’ order, operating not as an aesthetic reflex but as the pure equivalence of the system it aimed to engender.
It also implied mathematical exactitude and the equality of all co-ordinates in an infinite extension, thereby acknowledging the essence of uncertainty and change. Le Corbusier was very aware of this characteristic of the grid.
This characteristic of grid may have been the key element in Le Corbusier’s final drawing for the Venice hospital project – juxtaposing geometric order with spatial programming into an emblematic generative architecture.
Retracings: From the Plan to the Grid in Le Corbusier’s Design Strategy
Venice Hospital was planned in 1964 to be built in San Giobbe neighborhood, in the Canareggio area at the edge of the city of Venice, it was commissioned to cater for the acutely ill. The proposed hospital was unique in its design considerations, as the challenge was not just to design the hospital, but also to design the topography of the structure beneath the hospital - thereby creating a physical extension to the city of Venice.
Figure 1: Atelier Julian, plan of Venice with new hospital [third project], 1966.
2.1 Rapport Technique
In the Rapport Technique discussed below, Le Corbusier evokes both the programmatic issue and the flexibility issue in discussing the design of the hospital. The report turns to the problem of horizontal circulation that sprawl would create and proposes mechanization as the means of solving it. By virtue of its location and its scale, the building turned in on itself and created its own interior subenvironments in the form of wards centered around courtyards that repeated in a seemingly endless manner. These courtyards were supposed to extend the residential areas of the city into the water, but also create an abstract, clear logic that reciprocated back onto the labyrinthine context of Venice.
The Hospital is sited near the northwest end of the Grand Canal and extends over the lagoon separating Venice from Mestre. The decision to contain the wards in a solid wall and to light them from the roof is justified by the proximity of the railway terminal and the industrial squalor of Mestre. The building covers a large area and is comparable in its mass and public importance to such groups as the Piazza San Marco, the Ospedale Civile and the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore. It therefore forms an important addition to that small but significant collection of buildings symbolizing the public life of Venice.
Figure 2: Atelier Jullian, model of the Venice Hospital, 1966
Unlike the assimilation of the Venice Hospital to its immediate surroundings and everyday life, Kenneth Frampton points out that the Metabolist were unable to find such harmony in their work. According to Frampton, Kiyonari Kikutake’s floating cities are among the most poetic visions of the Metabolist Movement, yet Kikutake’s marine cities seem even more remote and inapplicable to everyday life… Gunther Nitschke et al. had this to say when making an assessment of the Metabolist Movement in 1966:
As long as the actual building get heavier, harder, more and more monstrous in scale, as long as architecture is taken as a means of expression of power, be it of oneself or of any kind of vulgar institution, which should be serving not ruling society, the talk of greater flexibility and change-loving structures is just fuss. Comparing this structure [Akira Shibuya’s Metabolic City project of 1966] with any one of the traditional Japanese structures or modern methods suggested by Wachsmann, Fuller, or Ekuan in Japan, it must be considered a mere anachronism, a thousand years out of date, or to say the least, not an advance of modern architecture in terms of theory and practice.
Le Corbusier was determined not to unsettle the existing typology of Venice through his proposed Hospital project. Le Corbusier wanted to translate his perception of the city in his design, according to him; “one cannot built high; it would be necessary to be able to build without building. And then its necessary to find scale.” (emphasis mine)
Although Le Corbusier was not alone in his pursuit to find a balance between the concept of innovativeness and integration in his design solutions, his solution according to Colquhoun, combines the monumentality of the Hospital as part of the grandeur of the city with an intimacy and textural quality in harmony with the city’s medieval scale. If built, it would have gone a long way towards revitalizing the “kitchen sink” end of the city which needed more than the tourist trade to keep it alive.
Incidentally, Eric Mumford in his essay believes, Le Corbusier’s concept of ‘ineffable space’ as a new basis of architectural form, articulated in a 1964 essay, usually relied on the transformation of existing typologies.
In comparison, Candilis-Josic-Woods, were attempting to generate a new method of formal expression that loosely linked the various program elements in ways that allowed to continuous flexibility and change. As in the example of the sketches illustrating the design approach at Berlin Free University, 1964.
Figure 3: Candilis Josic Woods, sketches illustrating design approach at Berlin Free University, 1964.
Although this approach was different from both Le Corbusier and Blom, the idea of linking elements that form open courtyard and connect programmatic areas has been extensively utilized by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in works such as the Centrosoyuz in Moscow, the League of Nations competition entry in Geneva, the Salvation Army Cite de Refuge in Paris and the Palace of the Soviets competition entry in Moscow, as Colquhoun had perceptively analyzed. Colquhoun identified how these projects begin to indicate a new urban pattern with multilevel circulation systems, which at the same time are adjusted to the particularities of each projects complex urban site.
Figure 4: Piet Bloom, “Noah’s Ark” project for urbanization of the Netherlands, shown at Team 10 meeting at Abbaye Royaumont, 1962; model photos and plan of one village unit.
In each, Le Corbusier perfected the technique of elementarization of the various major program elements, such as the linear bars joined at right angles to form open courts, which permitted a large number of plan variations with potentially infinite extensibility. Le Corbusier was able to realize such projects only in greatly reduced form, but Candilis-Josic-Woods began to build such ideas in enlarged but at the time spatially limited projects such as the Berlin Free University.
Although Eric Mumford in his arguments cites the example of the Berlin Free University, it must be noted here that in an assessment of this University by Tzonis et al. The Berlin Free University is somewhat termed as a magnificent yet redundant structure in its present condition. Unlike Le Corbusier’s proposed Venice Hospital it remains an isolated part of its immediate infrastructure, in terms of its scale as well as its functional programming.
2.2 Plan of the Venice Hospital
In terms of the plan of the Venice Hospital, Le Corbusier integrates the communication channels, the recreational and religious centers along with immediate hospital personnel space in the ground level of the hospital. According to Colquhoun, “The ground level accommodation occupies an L, with an isolated block contained within the arms of the L. The reception, the administration, and the kitchen occupy the L, and the nurses hostel the isolated block. A straight access system breaks through the L where gondola and car entries converge onto a common entrance lobby thrown across the gap.
Figure 5: Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, Figure 6: Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, first
first project  level 1. project level 2a 
The gondola approach route is bridged by a route linking religious and recreational centers at its extremities. There is an entresol containing extensions of the ground level accommodation….(similarly) the analytical and treatment departments are on the level 2a are arranged freely around the cores in an analogous way to the wards above.
Figure 7: Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, first project Figure 8: Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, first project  level 2b level 3.
Level 2b consists of a horizontal interchange system between all elevators points – patients using the central and the staff the peripheral, corridors fig…. The ward block which is occupies the entire top floor, is both the largest department of the building and represent its typical element, and organization allows this element to extend to the limits of the building with which it becomes identified by the observer, whatever position he may be in.
The basic unit of the plan and its generator is a square groups of wards rotating around a central elevator core – Le Corbusier calls a campiello. These units are added in such a way that wards next to each other in adjacent units merge, thus ‘correcting’ the rotation and making the independent systems interlock. An agglomerate of units creates a square grid with a campiello at each intersection. The plan differs from those isomorphic schemes where the unit of addition is elementary (as implied, for instance, in the roof of Aldo Van Eyck’s school at Amsterdam).
Here the basic unit is itself hierarchically arranged, with biological rather than mineral analogies, and capable of local modification without the destruction of its principle…The concept of the top-floor plan is reminiscent of the Islamic medresehs of North Africa, where subcommunities of students’ cells are grouped around small courtyard, forming satellite systems around a central court. As in the medresehs the whole dominates the parts, and the additive nature of the schema is overlaid with a strong controlling geometry.
The geometric as apposed to the additive schema consists of a system of overlaid squares and the golden-section rectangles. The smaller of the two squares established a center of gravity asymmetrical in relation to the scheme as a whole and related to it diagonally. This center is also on the intersection of the rectangles formed by dividing the total square according to geometrical proportion. The additive grid consists of eight units, which allows for division of the Fibonacci series into 8, 5, 3, 2. The center of the small square is the center of gravity of the treatment department and the main vertical circulation point for the patients around which there is an opening in the top floor giving light to the ground-floor court which wraps around the central core. As at the monastery of La Tourette, the traditional court with circulation around it is modified by a cruciform circulation system on its axis – a typical Corbusian superimposition of functional and mythic order.
Figure 9: Showing the Venice Hospital, geometrical schema(left), additive schema (right).
The central core (which from another point of view is merely one of a number of equidistant elevator cores) assumes a fixed relationship with the southeast and southwest faces of the building only. Conceptually, the building can extend on the northeast and northwest faces, and these are developed in a freer way over the lagoon to the northwest and the Canale di Cannaregio to the northeast, where one assumes further extension could take place. (Colquhoun notes that; between the first and second project a new site, became available, and it is therefore possible to see how extension has been achieved without detriment to the overall schema.)
The wards are grouped around the central light well in a wing over the lagoon, and form a U – shape over the gondola entrance to provide the echo of an avant-cour. From this “soft” side a bridge extends over the canal to an isolated ward complex on the opposite side.
According to Colquhoun; despite the uniqueness of this building in the work of Le Corbusier – a uniqueness that perhaps can be explained by the complexities of the problem and by the peculiarities of the site – a number of prototypes exist in his earlier work(that can perhaps testify to the feasibility of his design solution for the Venice Hospital). At the Villa Savoye in Poissy the flat cube, projected into the air and open to the sky, was first established as a “type” solution. It seems clear that this sort of “type” solution cannot be equated with the object-type discussed by Banham in his Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, since Le Corbusier frequently uses the same type in different contexts. However it can be assumed that Le Corbusiers’ concept of type relates to a mythic form rather than to a means of solving particular problems, and that, as with physiognomic forms or musical modes, a number of different contents can be attached to the same form. A similar idea is apparent in the project of for the Museum of Endless Growth of 1930-39, also connected with the problem of extensibility as at Venice, though solving it in a different way. In the 1925 Cite Universitaire project a solid single-story block of studios was proposed, where the rooms were lit entirely from the roof.”
In the Venice Hospital patios are more than just the static result of a solid that has been carved out to gain light and air. Following the explorations started at the 1964 Carpenter Center in Cambridge, the interaction of the inside and outside spaces are consciously activated by means of layers of transparencies and visual fluidity that dissolve the void and penetrate the mass. The idea successfully solved the contextual difficulties faced in the Harvard Building by dematerializing the facades and the limits of the envelope, and projecting the surrounding buildings as the ultimate façade. In Venice this effect is intensified by the shimmering reflections of the sun on the water and its projections on the slabs, walls, glassed surfaces, and pilotis.
The idea of a building on pilotis extending over water, may stem from Le Corbusier’s earlier interest in reconstructions of prehistoric lake dwellings in central Europe. The monastery of La Tourette resembles such schemes through the way in which the building is projected over rough sloping ground which, like water, offers no foothold for the inhabitants of the constructed world suspended above it.
Thus in the hospital scheme the potential symbolism of these forms has been harnessed to a new and unique problem. The space of the pilotis forms a shaded region in which the reflections of sunlight on water would create continuous movement. Over this space, which is articulated by numerous columns whose grouping would alter with the movement of the observer, floats a vast roof, punctured in places to let in the sunlight and give a view of the sky. This roof is in fact an inhabited top story, whose deep fascia conceals the wards behind it. It is the realm of the sky in whose calm regions the process of physical renewal can take place remote from the world of water, trees and men which it overshadows. But apart from its suggestions of sunlight and healing, it has more somber overtones.
The cavelike section of the wards, the drawn representation of the sick almost as heroic corpses laid out on cool slabs, the paraphernalia of ablution suggests more personal obsessions and give the impression of a place of masonic solemnity, a necropolis in the manner of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux or John Soane.
Figure 10: Atelier Jullian, Venice Hospital, Detail plan and section of typical
3rd project; Detail Plan of patients rooms patient cells, 1965
layout [level 3], 1966
The analytical way in which the constituent functions are separated allows them to develop pragmatically around and within fixed patterns. The form is not conceived of as developing in a one-to-one relation with the functions but is based on ideal schemata with which the freely deployed functions, with their possibilities of unexpected sensuous incident, engage in a dialogue. The building is both an agglomeration of basic cells, capable of growth and development and a solid which has been cut into and carved out to reveal a constant interaction of inside and outside space. The impression of complexity, is the result of a number of subsystems impinging on schemata which, in themselves, are extremely simple,” yet elegant as is evident in the Rapport Technique by Le Corbusier. The Rapport is a detailed listing of functions of the Hospital – from outpatients, department to emergency services, to performance space, public square, hotel, school, shops, lecture rooms, chapel, and the morgue – and the different user group, each given their place in this tapestry, conveying a strong urban feel.
The Rapport suggests strong emphasis on technological enabled circulation and communication systems so as to make the vast horizontal spread operate tightly. The three main iterations of the Venice Hospital were produced between 1964 and 1966. “The broad strokes are set in the first, the programmatic complexities are worked out in the second, and in the third the construction logic begins to appear.
Fig…..illustrate respectively the projects’ conceptual outline, its urban density, and the programmatic compartmentalization and logic of internal circulation.
2.3 Programmatic consideration of the Venice Hospital Project
Below is a brief comparison of the programmatic consideration of the Venice Hospital as outlined in Le Corbusier’s Rapport Technique (1965) with Alex Wall’s “Programming the Urban Surface” (2001).
The Venice Hospital as opposed to the classical conception of hospitals built and organized vertically, was a ‘horizontal hospital.’ Three main levels were planned.
The first level, on the ground is the level of connection with the city; there one finds the general services and all public access – by water, by foot, and from the bridge across the lagoon.
The second level is the story of preventive care, of specialized care, and of rehabilitation. It is a level of medical technology. The third level is the zone for hospitalization, and the visitor area. The height of the level is 13.66 meters; this dimension corresponds to the average height of the buildings in the city….
The point of departure for the hospital was the room [cellule] of the patient. This element, created at the human scale, gave rise to a care unit, of twenty eight patients, which functions autonomously. This unit is organized around a central space of communication (Campiello) and four paths (Calle), which are intended for both circulation and inhabitation by patients in convalescence. Four units of care form a ‘building unit.’ Through the juxtaposition of building units, this framework yields a horizontal hospital. Thus the hospital stops being a static organism and acquires a flexibility required both to follow the evolution of medical innovations and to accommodate the possibility of future growth. The hospital department can be interchangeable and will be used in accordance with the changing needs of the hospital. The care units receive indirect natural light that helps to create the best possible conditions for the patients. On the same level the patient will find the conditions of the city life, upon entrance into the “Calle,” the Campiello,” and the hanging gardens.
For the patient, a more comfortable hospitalization represents, in fact a more effective cure, which is always more economical. This means that one must go beyond the step of curing and emphasize the preventive and rehabilitation capabilities of the hospital. This process presumes a medical organization based on teamwork, and for this reason the second level is conceived in such a way that the medical services that it contains….can be used indiscriminately by all hospitalization services. This level is exclusively reserved for the medical staff, except for the circulation space, which is directly linked to the first floor and is used for prevention and rehabilitation…
By opening the ground floor directly onto the city, one allows for a city-hospital encounter and facilitates the visual transmission of medicine towards the outside. In this way the outpatient … will find himself within reach of all the services that facilitates their contact with a hospital (prevention, therapy, rehabilitation). The hotel, the restaurant, the cinema, the shops, etc,. will effectively enable this integration with the city, allowing many patients to be treated without being hospitalized, and thereby allowing the beds available inside the hospital to be occupied more reasonably….. The Unite de soins, the Campiello, and the Calle serve to create relationship between the patient and the city.
The various specific functions – patients check in, emergency care, visitors, etc. - are all given a point of contact with the ground at level 1, which is organized vertically to lead to their corresponding levels and spaces. The horizontal network of shallow ramps on the fourth floor is reserved exclusively for the patients and medical staff; it ensures their circulation all the while prohibiting the passage of patients into the services areas where they do not belong. The fifth story is thereby left entirely for the use of hospitalized patients and their visitors.”
Similar design consideration is formulated by Alex Wall in his argument, according to him the “goal of designing the urban surface is to increase its capacity to support and diversify activities in time – even activities that cannot be determined in advance – then the primary design strategy is to extend its continuity while diversifying its range of services. This is less design as passive ameliorant and more as active accelerant, staging and setting up new conditions for uncertain futures. He further believes that the “traditional notion of the city as a historical and institutional core surrounded by postwar suburbs and then open countryside has been largely replaced by a more polycentric … metropolis. Here multiple centers are served by overlapping networks of transportation, electronic communication, production and consumption. Operationally, if not experientially, the infrastructures and flows of material have become more significant than static political and spatial boundaries. The influx of people, vehicles, goods and information constitute … “daily urban system” painting a picture of urbanism that is dynamic and temporal. The emphasis shifts here from forms of urban space to process of urbanization, processes that network across vast regional – if not global – surfaces.
Unlike the treelike, hierarchical structures of traditional cities, the contemporary metropolis functions more like a spreading rhizome, dispersed and diffuse, but at the same time infinitely enabling.”
According to Guillermo Julian de la Fuente, he tested the urban ideas considered in the Venice Hospital at a broader scale between 1969 and 1970 in a competition project for the renovation of the waterfront of the city of Cuomo.
Figure 11: Jullian, sequence of models Figure12: Jullian, competition project for the urban depicting spatial relations in patios renovation of Cuomo, Italy 1979-70.
Final Version 1970.
After visiting and analyzing the city, studying its Roman fabric, and reviewing the spatial relations of Giuseppe Terragni’s work, Julian decided to deploy a new urban fabric that following Venice’s example, included major public programs and amenities such as theatres, exhibition halls, and parks. “The structure is permeable to the lake underneath” he said. “Without facades, this structure is in reality conceived within the spirit of an open and flexible program.” For Jullian, the Cuomo project is part of the same research he undertook for Venice, in this case taking the Roman city as a starting point. Here the project is a reiteration of the Venice principles, but influenced by the existing plan of the city and its texture. For Julian, projects like Cuomo or Valencia are part of that continuous search for ways to operate at such scale, and these experiments generated a process of cross-referencing that always converged on Venice as a point of departure and arrival.
As Julian puts it; “It is very important to remark that the idea was not to create a block or wall towards the city … In Venice there is this special characteristic called the “transenna,” that is the way buildings water and light merge into a completely different condition where there are not single buildings any more but generates a whole architectural compound.
This architectural compound is an active entity, the “activity becomes a way of describing both the presence of a building, as well as the presence of an urban field.”
According to Hashim Sarkis, in the Venice Hospital; “the programmatic-change kind of flexibility caters to shifting functions within the building and to growth both outward and inward. Relocating departments within this framework is made easier by the layering of the hospital into three strata….The radical change in the Venice Hospital is in the way the building transform into a series of network themselves and these networks acquire their shape from an external rather than a programmatic source. The horizontal and block attributes of the hospital are juxtaposed against, rather than derived from, the program. They come from the city. The growth of the hospital is also made in increment of the city, not in increment of the internal module. Thereby articulating in essence an excellent example of generative architecture.
The urbanization of the building program made possible the consolidation of this scale of institution with modern life. This is one of the main attributes of the Venice Hospital and one that distinguishes it from other iconic mat buildings like the Berlin Free University.” The Berlin Free University remained the key example in the ‘Rational Architecture’ sensibilities of the 1960s.
As noted above, Le Corbusier’s city grids, domestic layouts and the Modular do merit a consideration, as an ideal example of the spatial innovations of the new sciences, thereby providing a homogenous, quantitative, infinitely extensible continuum.
Jack H. Williamson read this into the alleged ‘dematerialization’ of Le Corbusier’s interiors and christens it the ‘anti-object paradigm’. He considers this spatial development to be parallel to the loss of autonomous individuality under the new collectivist and determinist social and psychological sciences.
Andrew McNamara similarly read Le Corbusier’s grid as an evidence of a desire to collapse all boundaries – natural, spatial, social and aesthetic – into an undifferentiated field. Le Corbusier is apparently committed to imposing this field at all levels, ‘to transform it into a broad social vision encompassing every aspect of life’.
According to Richards; although the above readings may be applicable to other modernists grids, they are not applicable to Le Corbusier.
In contrast to Richards, Stoppani in her essay entitled, The Reversible City:
Exhibition(ism), Chorality and Tenderness in Manhattan and Venice 
believes that both Manhattan and Venice represent unsolved complexities for the
modernist discourse in architecture and therefore the Venice Hospital project
did support Le Corbusier’s articulation of an infinitely extensible continuum. And
a ideal place to explore generative architecture.
According to Stoppani , Anti-modern (Manhattan) and Venice Hospital
project in its attempt at replicating the intrinsic program of the city may have pre-
modern (Venice), resist the separations and classifications that the language of
the Modernist discourse in a architecture imposes on the urban space…While
the many different worlds of Manhattan coexist because they are separated and
con-tained (held together and held inside) by the Grid, Venice is regulated in her
structure but is never contained inside a defined envelope: the interior of Venice
flows, overruns, changes, constantly redefines its boundaries. The chorality of
Venice is a collective and constitutive process. Here even the voice of
In Sur Les Quatre Routes (1941) Le Corbusier acknowledges:
‘Venice is a totality. It is a unique phenomenon […] of total harmony, integral
purity and unity of civilization.’ ‘Here everything is measure, proportion and
human presence. Go into the city, in its most hidden corners: you will realize that
in this urban enterprise one finds, everywhere, tenderness [tendresse].’
Stoppani goes on to question whether this Venetian tenderness a product of its ‘total harmony, integral purity and unity’, ‘measure, proportion’.
It seems Le Corbusier believed that this certainly was the case. Stoppani argues that; Venetian architectural tenderness – Venice making as a process – seem more attuned to the fluidity of current post-compositional trends in architecture. Or more specifically generative architecture.
Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital project 1964-65 may have been the first and perhaps the finest example in this direction towards of generative architecture.
1. Alan Colquhoun, ‘Return to Order: Le Corbusier and Modern Architecture in France 1920-35’ Modern Architecture 2002
2. Alan Colquhoun, “The Strategies of the Grands Travaux,” in Modernity and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989)
3. Alan Colquhoun, Essays in Architectural Criticism: Modern Architecture and Historical Change
4. Alex Wall drew his formulation from James Corner, “Field Operations,” (unpublished lecture notes).
5. Andrew Benjamin, “Opening Resisting Forms: Recent Projects of Reiser and Umemoto,” in Reiser and Umemoto – Recent Projects. 40 Academy Editions, 1998
6. Christopher Alexander, The City is not a Tree.
7. David Harvey, The Condition of Post Modernity (Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell, 1989)
8. David Havey, Jusice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell, 1996)
9. George Baird, “Free University Berlin,” AA Files 40 [Winter 1999]
10. Giles Delluze and Felix Guattari, “Rhizome” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 3-27; and Corner , “Field Operations.”
11. Hashim Sarkis, ‘The Paradoxical Promise of Flexibility,’ in Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
12. J. Derrida, ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’ in Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass, 1978
13. J.S. Adams, ed., Association of American Geographers Comparative Metropolitan Analysis Project: Twentieth Century Cities, vol,4(Cambridge, Mass., Ballinger,1976)
14. Jack. H. Williamson, 1986,
15. Kenneth E. Silver, Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War 1914-1925 Princeton 1989 p.381-9 cited in Colquhoun 2002
16. Kenneth Frampton, ‘Place, Production and Scenography: International Theory since 1962’, Modern Architecture: A Critical History. 3rd edition.
17. Le Corbusier, Sur Les Quatre Routes (1941), (Paris: Dënoel/Gonthier, 1970)
18. M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everday life trans. S. F. Rendall, Berkeley 1984.
19. Mahnaz Shah, Comparative Analysis: VH and BFU Research Seminar: Precedent and Identity TUDelft 2005
20. McNamara, 1992
21. McNamara, Between Flux and Certitude: The Grid in Avant Garde Utopian Thought’ Art History vol.15 no.1 March 1992
22. Ozenfant and Jeanneret, ‘Purisme’ L’Esprit Nouveau no.4 October 1929,
23. Ozenfant, Foundation of Modern Art trans. J. Rodker, London 1931
24. R. Banham, Theory and Design in the first Machine Age 1960
25. Rem Koolhaas, “Whatever happened to Urbanism?” in S,M,L,XL. (New York: Monacelli Press 1995), 958-97; Stan Allen “Infrastructural Urbanism,” in Scroope 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Architecture School, 1998)
26. S. Kwinter, ‘La Cita Nuova: Modernity and Continuity’ Zone no. ½
27. Schlemmer, ‘Diary – November 3, 1915, cited in Tut Schlemmer, ed., The Letters and Diaries of Oskar Schlemmer 1982
28. Shadrach Woods, “Free University Berlin,” World Architecture 2 (1995)
29. Simon Richards, Le Corbusier and the Concept of Self. 2003
 Quoted by Allard 2001, p. 32,and end notes p 35:
 Alan Colquhoun, ‘Return toOrder: Le Corbusier and Modern Architecture in France 1920-35’ Modern Architecture 2002 p. 137
 R. Banham, Theory and Design in the first Machine Age 1960 p. 249
 McNamara, Between Flux and Certitude: The Grid in Avant Garde Utopian Thought’ Art History vol.15 no.1 March 1992
 A. Ozenfant, Foundation of Modern Art trans. J. Rodker, London 1931 p.217
 Schlemmer, ‘Diary – November 3, 1915, cited in Tut Schlemmer, ed., The Letters and Diaries of Oskar Schlemmer 1982 p.32
 McNamara, p. 64
 L’Esprit Nouveau no.4 cited in Colquhoun 2002
 Ozenfant and Jeanneret, ‘Purisme’ L’Esprit Nouveau no.4 October 1929, p.369
 Kenneth E. Silver, Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War 1914-1925 Princeton 1989 p.381-9 cited in Colquhoun 2002 p.140
 J. Derrida, ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’ in Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass, 1978 p.47
 Le Corbusier, p.68
 McNamara, p.66
 S. Kwinter, ‘La Cita Nuova: Modernity and Continuity’ Zone no. ½ p.98
 M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everday life trans. S. F. Rendall, Berkeley 1984, p.92-95 cited in McNamara 1992 p.66
 Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 Alan Colquhoun, Essays in Architectural Criticism: Modern Architecture and Historical Change p.35
 Kenneth Frampton, ‘Place, Production and Scenography: International Theory since 1962’, Modern Architecture: A Critical History. 3rd edition. p.280
 ibid., p. 283
 Giuseppe Mazzariol, “Le Corbusier in Venice: His Project for a New Hospital,” Zodiac 16 : 241
 Aldo Rossi in a similar exercise writes on his contribution to the Gallaratese complex; In my design for the residential block in the Gallaratese district of Milan (1969-73) there is an analogical relationship with certain engineering works that mix freely with both the corridor typology and a related feeling I have always experienced in the architecture of the traditional Milanese tenements, where the corridor signify a life-style bathed in everyday occurrences, domestic intimacy and varied personal relationships. However another aspect of this design was made clear to me by Fabio Reinhart driving through the San Bernardino Pass, as we often did to reach Zurich from the Ticino Valley. Reinhart noticed the repetitive element in the system of open sided tunnels, and therefore the inherent pattern. I understood … how I must have been conscious of that peculiar structure … without necessarily intending to express it in a work of architecture.
 Alan Colquhoun, Essays in Architectural Criticism: Modern Architecture and Historical Change p.35
 Eric Mumford, ‘The Emergence of Mat or Field Builing,’ source: Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001) p.57-58
 Smithson, Team 10 Meetings, 34 source: Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 In many texts Blom’s project was depicted as a “snowflake shape that by means of unlimited repetition and undefinable scale served to subtly illustrate the analogy between house and city.” source: Sarkis, p. 21 illustration of Blom’s “The City will be inhabited like Villages” p.57 and “Noah’s Ark” p.59
 Alan Colquhoun, “The Strategies of the Grands Travaux,” in Modernity and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989), p.8-10
 George Baird, “Free University Berlin,” AA Files 40 [Winter 1999]: 66-71: Shadrach Woods, “Free University Berlin,” World Architecture 2 (1995): 112-121
 AA Press released book edited by Tzonis, Mostafvi etc.
 Alan Colquhoun, Essays in Architectural Criticism: Modern Architecture and Historical Change
 Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 Alan Colquhoun, “The Strategies of the Grands Travaux,” in Modernity and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989), p.8-10
Corbusier, Rapport Technique. Trans. Lucia Allais. source: Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 ibid., p.37
 Corbusier, Rapport Technique. Trans. Lucia Allais. source: Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 Alex Wall drew his formulation from James Corner, “Field Operations,” (unpublished lecture notes). Rem Koolhaas, “Whatever happened to Urbanism?” in S,M,L,XL. (New York: Monacelli Press 1995), 958-97; and Stan Allen “Infrastructural Urbanism,” in Scroope 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Architecture School, 1998), 71-79.
 J.S. Adams, ed., Association of American Geographers Comparative Metropolitan Analysis Project: Twentieth Century Cities, vol,4(Cambridge, Mass., Ballinger,1976) and David Harvey, The Condition of PostModernity (Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell, 1989)
 David Havey, Jusice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell, 1996)
 Christopher Alexander made similar argument in his essay entitled: The City is not a Tree.” Dated…
 Giles Delluze and Felix Guattari, “Rhizome” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 3-27; and Corner , “Field Operations.”
 Perez de Arce, 120
 Pablo Allard, ‘Bridge over Venice: Speculations on Cross-fertilization of ideas between Team 10 and Le Corbusier [after a Conversation with Guillermo Julian de la Fuente]’ source: Hashim Sarkis, Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001) p.30-31
 Andrew Benjamin, “Opening Resisting Forms: Recent Projects of Reiser and Umemoto,” in Reiser and Umemoto – Recent Projects. 40 Academy Editions, 1998
 Hashim Sarkis, ‘The Paradoxical Promise of Flexibility,’ in Case: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and Mat Building Revival. (2001)
 please refer to my paper on Comparative Analysis: VH and BFU
 Williamson, 1986, p.15-30, 23 mentioned in, Richards, 2003, ‘notes to pages 108-10’ p.239
 McNamara, 1992, p.60-79, 65 mentioned in, Richards, 2003, ‘notes to pages 108-10’ p.239
 Richards, ‘notes to pages 108-10’ p.239
 Terresa Stoppani, The Reversible City:Exhibition(ism), Chorality and Tenderness in Manhattan and Venice 2005 p. 3
 Le Corbusier, Sur Les Quatre Routes (1941), (Paris: Dënoel/Gonthier, 1970), p. 216 and p. 221.
 Stoppani, 2005.