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OM Ungers and the Question of Utopia

Organizing Committee:


"The seminar will focus on the question of Utopia as it appears (or disappears) in selected works by O.M. Ungers from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. Special attention will be given to competitions and other unbuilt works as a form of design research developed by Ungers during this period."


An investigation into the career of German architect OM Ungers.  The class's focus should be on his resolutely a-political stance on form and practice in light of contemporary politcal theory about architecture.  The class would be an opportunity to re-evaluate some of this brilliant architect's theoretical failings and open them to more contemporary discussions of form and aesthetics as a a volatile political category in architecture.


Reinhold Martin would be the desired lecturer for this class.


  • Reinhold Martin


Wallas's picture

i think the proposition of the class was that we cannot help being postmodern. But that with some critical distance architects should make an effort to articulate the problem that postmodernISM in architecture missed (or as you say detoured around). Ungers was presented, in Martin’s terms, "not as a role model but as a way to articulate the problem." It seems that Ungers is a useful example because for the most part we can move away from questions of style in postmodern architecture looking instead at utopia, visions and ghosts. Although I did overhear the remark that perhaps we should have focused on the buildings a bit more.

maria ibanez de sendadiano's picture

"Is anyone here a Post-modernist?" he asked again. "No one's answered my question."

the perceived failures of modernist public housing and large-scale modernist planning, led some architects into the arms of post modernism. the pendulum was swung from a movement centered on reason and function, to one that was largely superficial and reactionary. if you put aside the stylistic aspects of postmodernism and focus on the potentially redeeming motive of returning to the human scale, of designing humane spaces, doing so inexorably pulled focus away from the public realm, from the collective to the interior.

interiority and a search for utopia on a smaller scale, led to a clear division between the public and the private. these private spaces became the realm of the few, and (possibly) unwittingly they came to serve capitalism. post modernism became the architecture of hotels, malls and wealthy private homes. the effect on the public sphere in towns and cities in the US was toxic and catastrophic. it's effect continues to be present. efforts are being taken to eradicate the damage. architects and planners are again talking about community, about the public. in the end, post modernism was not a harmless flamboyant deviation, but a devastating detour.

thus, the answer is "no".

maria ibanez de sendadiano's picture

Reminder: Class Today at 1:30 PM

For those of you who are not familiar with the Columbia University Campus, here are specific directions to Brownies Cafe:

Enter Columbia University through the main gate at 116th St and Broadway. Walk along college walk to the center of the Campus. The Sundial will be on your right. Turn left toward Lowe Library and walk up the main steps. After you pass the statue of Alma Mater turn right. Turn left onto the next major walkway. Pass Buell hall (a small white building) and St. Paul's Chapel. Avery Hall will be on your right. When you enter Avery there will be a set of stairs to your left that lead to the basement where Brownies Cafe is located.

please note that the class has been pushed to 1:30pm (instead of 12:30pm)


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