The life within the threshold

Essay about the threshold in housing

year: 2014
tutor: N. Mota

‘PREVI Lima’ was a design competition for affordable and incremental housing in the early seventies. Besides a group of Peruvian architects there was a group of international architects invited to take part in this competition. One of these architects was Aldo van Eyck who was, and still is, internationally known because of his involvement in the modernist movements CIAM and Team X. His design for the PREVI de Lima showed an urban plan with typical organically shaped housing blocks. These housing blocks have a quality within them that can serve the city as a whole, the community within the block and the individual dwelling. The design strategy that van Eyck used to achieve this quality from the urban plan to the dwelling, and the other way around, brings forth a gradual transition from public to private. This gradual transition causes diversity in types of open spaces. Providing these types of open spaces within the city give the city dwellers the choice which type of open space they want to be in or relate to. To fully understand the way of thinking behind this strategy it is important to understand van Eyck’s text Steps towards a configurative discipline that was published in the magazine Forum in 1962.

Neil Leach describes in his article the dark side of the domus (1998) that in a village – or as discussed ‘community’ – difference is absorbed and therefore it is denied. This system causes “certain intolerance” towards that what is different. The city on the other hand is described as a cosmopolitan place where difference is tolerated and even celebrated.

This black and white comparison of village and city calls for a more subtle approach that can be based on the work of Aldo van Eyck. In his article steps towards a configurative discipline (1962) he talks about the ‘in-between’ world. This idea of ‘in-between’ can be seen in the gradual change of spaces between the public and private. The question that is discussed in this essay is the following: Can the ‘in-between’ world of Aldo van Eyck serve as a mediator between the community and the cosmopolis?

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