Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell was part of a team at the IIT in Chicago, with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the forefront, which set out to develop the “New City”, as Ludwig Hilberseimer called it in his 1944 publication. Their hidden agenda seemed to propagate a neo-pastoral idea of the forest as a structural element in city planning, and indeed to underscore a clear polarity between nature and the technical artifact. Leo Marx, who in his famous book on American Studies coined the term “machine in the garden” detected one of the initial expressions of modernity in a triangle of: a subject, aesthetically involved in the experience of nature; the modern glass house, a product of architectural progress and home base of the technically equipped mobile man (as exemplified by Mies’ Farnsworth House of 1950/51); and the return of nature in the form of vast woodlands and small agricultural areas.
This lecture will reflect on the developments described above based on Caldwell’s meticulously drawn plans. In doing so, it will sketch an opposition to the functional and widespread approach of “light, air, and sun” in 1930s architecture, which is more closely related to “modern times” than “nature” as a possible aesthetic alterity.
Albert Kirchengast is Ph.D. candidate in Architecture at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, and is currently an IWM Guest.