MAX VAN DER WESTERLAKEN
La Casa Urbana
This graduation research and related design assignment focus on building the continuity of the European city in its specific Milanese form. In this, the relation between the typology of the Milanese urban apartment building and the city’s morphology plays a central role, based on the hypothesis that the rational definition of this typomorphological relationship is at the basis of such continuity.
The historical research reveals the early twentieth century as a period in which Milan’s urban character and its (residential) architecture obtain a metropolitan scale. In the social dynamics that characterized Milan in this period, the rapidly growing middle class demanded new forms of housing that were to be representative and dense at the same time. A ‘Milanese School’ around young architects such as Giovanni Muzio, Giò Ponti and Giuseppe de Finetti formulated answers to these new demands. On the basis of four case studies of paradigmatic projects, the research concludes how, despite major stylistic differences, their architecture was identified with the scale and ideal of the modern industrial city on the one hand and the material and cultural residue of Milan’s history on the other.
The typomorphological research continues upon this and concludes that a typological continuity mainly exists in the way in which the Milanese urban apartment building achieves a delicate balance between scale levels: from the individual apartment to the structure of the residential building as an entity and its relation to the surrounding urban fabric. Architectural analyses of the façade, the building structure, the urban space and its materiality all point towards a certain intermediate scale, between urban design and architecture, which makes the expression of the individual dwelling part of a representative gesture towards the city. The fundamentally heterogeneous urban space, composed of a multitude of apartment buildings, thereby at the same time acquires a certain degree of coherence.
As a follow-up to the research, a design assignment has been defined for a metropolitan residential ensemble, a Casa Urbana, which as such transcends a mere ‘urban infill’ of one or more plots. The design for the ensemble addresses the complete spectrum of scale levels that emerged from the research. The seemingly autonomous urban composition of a block and a tower is adapted to the surrounding city by carefully designing the intermediate scale in volume, façades, corners and floor plans. The ensemble contributes to the definition of urban space and seeks consistency with the existing streetscape. The expression of the individual becomes integrated in the greater whole of the urban mass. It is precisely because of this coherence between scale levels that a Milanese urbanity can serve as a model worth pursuing in the architectural design of dwelling in relation to the urban condition.
tutors: prof. Dipl.-Ing. C. Rapp, prof.ssa R. Neri, Dipl.-Ing. H. Apelt, ir. W. Hilhorst
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