Be Not Afraid: a Hilton prayer

Hilton Hotels_Egypt_1958

“Though not jingoistic, Hilton’s patriotism expressed his deep commitment to two American habits: religiousness and capitalism. […] Indeed, Conrad Hilton regularly substituted prayers for advertisements. At Christmas time, Hilton offered an inspirational religious message accompanied only by the Hilton logo. For example, in 1958 there appeared in Life a full-page Hilton “advertisment” showing a traditional shepherd with his sheep looking with some surprise toward a five-pointed star in the heavens. The painting of the shepherd and his small flock is overlaid with a ghostly columnar text cataloging the catastrophes that occurred that year between January and October…”


From: Annabel Jane Wharton’s Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture (University of Chicago Press, 2006)

See also, “America on Its Knees” anticommunism Hilton ad

Previendo el Pasado

future vehicles

For the past decades Detroit has been synonymous for urban decay, while today its apocalyptic landscape poses a challenge for professionals and investors claiming to provide a vision for its future. This study aims to understand the complex dynamics that led to the abandonment of the city and invalidated the attempts to reverse the decline started in the sixties. Among them, “Doxiadis Plan” stands out for having presented a long-term vision based on a set of integrated programs and following “scientific” guidelines. The study carries out a comprehensive analysis of Detroit’s structural problems highlighting their interactions that formed a downward spiral leading the city to decline. Moreover, It examines the “Doxiadis Plan” in its historical context and draws parallels with contemporary initiatives, in order to explain its failure while reviewing its optimistic vision towards the new promises. Envisioning Detroit’s post-industrial future one should integrate its past.

Keywords: urban decline, urban sprawl, racial conflicts, 
Ecumenopolis – Megalópolis

Conference Paper: PREVIENDO EL PASADO – El Plan “Doxiadis” para Detroit y el futuro de la Megalópolis de los Grandes Lagos

V Seminario Internacional de Investigación en Urbanismo, 13 y 14 de junio en Barcelona

Athens # Rethink

Rethink Athens is a European Architectural Competition organized and funded by the Onassis Foundation promoting the revitalization of the Athenian center. Undoubtedly, this is the most ambitious effort, among a series of architectural competitions on public spaces or buildings, to shape downtown Athens and stimulate growth towards resiliency – to use the socially friendly mirror term of sustainable development.

The competition was set against the background of a crisis that during the past years has magnified urban and social ills – not to mention nationalist spirit, and this is probably the reason that the results have generated an unprecedented political paraphernalia on the Athenian urbanism.

While waiting the much promised debate on the objectives and development of the project, worths considering other proposals that have contributed in their way, yet barely discussed.

The second prize was awarded to a group of young architects (Kiki Ilousi, Oihana Iturritxa Kerexeta, Dimitris Gourdoukis, Theodora Christoforidou, Katerina Tryfonidou, Fotis Vasilakis) whose proposal, much alike the winning one, figured a network of open and green spaces around the central intervention axis, integrated in the Athenian ecosystem.

panepistimiouThe utopian proposal award went to Kostas Tsiambaos and Myrto Kiourti who suggested a different land ownership structure stating that “the catalyst towards a new city center will be its active and responsible citizens and not its superficially redesigned image”.


The winning proposal “One Step Beyond” was submitted by OKRA, in collaboration with Mixst urbanism and Wageningen University. In the forthcoming months, OKRA will develop a plan scheduled for implementation in 2015, under the auspices of the Onassis Foundation and via European Funding. Provided that such an option is still on the table…

Still D

Welcome to DHA City Karachi (DCK) # The first planned sustainable & green city of Pakistan

Situated on the Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway, 56 kilometers from the center of Karachi (the financial centre of Pakistan and a global city with an estimated population of 21 million people), DHA City is conceived as an urban model for the 21st century. DHA city comprises 50,000 residential and commercial plots, specialized healthcare and higher education institutes, a convention centre, and a high-rise CBD called DCK downtown. According to the project, the aforementioned facilities introduce new standards of planning adapted to the local conditions, while the planning approach draws on sustainable design principles. As such, the downtown district will be defined by a car free pedestrian spine with tree-lined pathways, garden courtyards, water features and piazza’s.

Still, DHA City comprises Golf Club resorts, theme parks, Lakeview parks, Mall Zones and similar facilities that promise a most “exciting and thrilling entertainment experience.”

Still, the promotional video features a different lifestyle in the DHA City: security towers, checkpoint, central entrance gate, electronic surveillance system, and milestone ceremonies with military officers.

Still, in case you are interested in buying a plot in DHA…

The master plan of DHA City is a joint collaboration of Doxiadis Associates, RMJM (Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall), Osmani & Company (Pvt) Ltd, Karachi, Pakistan, and Professor Spiro Pollalis from the GSD Harvard University as chief planner. Construction on the new city is expected to start in early 2012, with full completion expected by 2030.

Still D: DHA’s Past

Despite being one of the New Towns of what so far has been the 21st century, and a future landmark project of Pakistan, DHA City has a peculiar planning past. From 1959 to 1963, Doxiadis Associates developed the master plan of Islamabad, conceived as the new capital of Pakistan. Sir Robert Matthew and RMJM had a share in the design of several buildings, while the whole venture originated in an economic plan of Pakistan, devised in the mid-1950s by a Harvard Advisory Group under the auspices of the Ford Foundation.

The design of Islamabad brought forward the most complete and ambitious realization of Dynapolis, Constantinos Doxiadis’ planning solution to the management of postwar urban growth, and an alternative to modern planning that was facing criticism. Dubbed by Doxiadis as “The City of the Future,” Islamabad followed the planning principles of Ekistics, easily identified in the video of the DHA project: hierarchical scale of the Ekistic units, the classification of the residential areas in communities of classes, public facilities in walking distance from the residences, etc.


In the case of the DHA City, as Ziyad Mahmoud, associate at RMJM explained, “This theory promotes the concept of mixed use residential sectors by creating multiple centres within them spreading facilities such as commerce, amenities and parks throughout these areas. The principle behind the master plan is a group of self-sustaining cities within a city, with community amenities accessible to all residents within a 10 minute walk.”

For those acquainted with the work and theory of Constantinos Doxiadis, the methodological and theoretical parallelisms between Islamabad and DHA City, can only but provide the background to debate and questions. Are DHA City and the development of the Karachi area a mere proof of Islamabad’s failure as a national capital, or the perfect reasoning of its existence?  Is Ekistics pertinent to contemporary urban-regional planning? Are any global, universal, humanistic values that planning should account for? What is the role of theory in applied sciences as urbanism and regional development? Do we still miss a critical view on our planning past?

Still D?

The Momentus Project

The Momentus Project

A collaborative project in which a select group of designers 
illustrators, and artists create visual interpretations of 
the most defining moments in United States history as a way 
of informing others of our proud, yet sometimes troubled 
and forgotten past.

Read: The Curator’s Interview – Evan Stremke

When Moderns were modern ≡ WMwm

At the UN “Habitat” Conference, which took place in 
Vancouver, Canada in 1976 – a year after C.A. Doxiadis’ 
death – Jacky [Tyrwhitt] participated in the 
Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGO) Forum as 
representative of ACE and consultant editor of its 
journal EKISTICS, but like all of us, also as a member of 
the WSE, an NGO accredited to the UN. Gwen Bell and Rebecca 
Ruopp Packard, then editor and assistant editor of the 
journal, were also there. They came bearing printed 
“T” shirts with the name of EKISTICS on the front and the 
statement “I am an Anthropos” on the back. Jacky was 
delighted with the idea and was the first to wear it, 
circulating among the young participants at the Forum.

[excerpt from Panayis Psomopoulos' "Jacky and the World 
Society for Ekistics," Ekistics 314/315, 1985 ]

Undoubtedly, Jacqueline Tyrwhitt was one of the last Moderns. She worked willingly as the ‘woman behind the man’ – notably as a disciple of Patrick Geddes, translator and editor of Sigfried Giedion, and collaborator of Constantinos Doxiadis. In doing so she extended their influence greatly and shaped the work of many people.

Moreover, as the aforementioned anecdote recounts, Jacky was committed to the socio-ecological objectives of Ekistics and she would do anything to get the message through, even wearing a logo T-shirt at an official UN summit! Challenging, effective, and with a dose of naivety, was modernity once.

As Crimson eloquently declare for their forthcoming exhibition at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia, “We want architecture to re-engage with the banality of urban planning, as a force for the good.”

Read: Ellen Shoshkes, “Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: a founding mother of modern urban design”

Jet Age Man

1954 photographs from the early U.S.’ space program. Taken by Life magazines’ staff photographer, Ralph Morse (1917). Morse established life-long friendships with the astronauts of NASA, as he joined them in their training, during a thirty-year assignment. He became the eighth astronaut of Project Mercury.

Jet Age Man 
Man w. patterns of light covering his face and shoulders 
in Air Force study in making flight helmets in small, 
medium & large by measuring head w. light-beam contour map.