With the reading of Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Grosz-stadt-Architektur simply as “Large City Architecture”, the description of the city changes from a notion of political intervention to one of quantitative examination. Thereby and when the urban is defined as “being situated in a city”, urbanism can be extended with schemata of the design of the city itself: the resonance of its parts, its mereological compositions. With this positive departure from modernism, a mereological city unfolds to an alternative to the contrasting equation of form and content.
In such a reading, architectural knowledge overlaps with digital thought. A mereological examination of the city, based on quantitative methods allows an interface to technical, digital representations of places and buildings. Known as "Building Information Modeling" (BIM) these representations are based on the abstraction of part-relations. This is different to common incorporations of the digital in urban design, which mainly focus on continuous, morphological differentiations. BIM-models can be described as the nesting and incorporation of multiple representations of objects and algorithms. However, today’s models focus only on the internal organization of one object, not its assembly. On the one hand such models progress modes of construction and tectonics of built forms, however on the other hand they constrict the articulation of places by offering its elements just standardized part-relations.
As mereological condition architecture anticipates specific possibilities in an environment. As opposed to describing something discrete as merely something that is, parthood conditions also describe interiority as what is has, or by reaching out beyond its exterior, to what it does not have. Describing to have has the advantage that in a reversible manner it defines both: who possesses, as well as that which is possessed.
It reminds us, that when the ground (gr.: logos) of the city is defined by its parts (gr.: meros), its architecture, the city in turn always also is part of the architecture as its desire. »The Mereological City« introduces a mereological methodology and contributes to an ongoing discussion about an ecological form of urban design.
Why a book on this subject?
Constantly, ecological integrity of architectural objects and cities are judged by means of technical, extra-disciplinary artifacts. But not by the articulation of the architecture itself. This leads to the question: Is there a form of knowledge in architecture that can be described as ecological? The work of Ludwig Hilberseimer is one of the key projects for a critique on modernism and its failure. It is precisely because Hilberseimer developed a scheme of the design of an epoch, which need to be overcome, the book departs here.
What relevance does this subject have in the current research debates?
Modernity looked to take on the idea of globalization. If we experience the world to be in a state of complete globalization, then the past criticism of modernism is no longer relevant. This book looks to speculate on the possibilities on taking this one step further. Therefore, I propose the revaluation of the modernist method. Through an examination of Hilberseimer's work, his sources in the writings of the art historian Alois Riegl and an influence of Nietzsche's philosophy at the turn of the 20th century, the book unfolds an understanding of architectural elements depending on particular rather than universal abstractions: the modernist schema as a form of mereological composition.
What new perspectives does your book open up?
The current perceptive that arises in my book raises questions on composition. The book places a theory from the reading of designs, instead of preceding design with a theory. By this, the mereological becomes independent of the meaning of style or any meta-language, which allows drawing historically different architectural objects coherent. By combining both history and design, the work enables us to look to histories, as if they are algorithmic and digital.
Your book in only one sentence:
This book describes architecture as a compositional tension, realized with a multiplicity of buildings, with the city itself.