Marina City Lecture

We have been working on Marina City since 1959. In the course of work on Marina City, many of our ideas have developed.

Today, I have decided to present to you both our original ideas as we launched Marina City and our latest ideas as we are swinging into the completion of Marina City.

The first portion of this afternoon’s session are excerpts from a presentation which I gave in 1959 at the Art Institute of Chicago as Marina City was announced and foundations were being started.

The second portion of this afternoon’s talk has come from excerpts of a speech which I gave at a Design Conference on environment at Aspen, Colorado.

I hope that our struggles and thoughts in some way will give you comfort in the coming development at Edmonton in that you are not alone in your doubts, your problems and the solutions which will come to you for them as you undertake this great work.

Marina City 1959 Part I Presented at Seminar on Architectural Aspects of Edmonton Civic Centre Plan Edmonton, Alberta, Canada September 27, 1962

Today I am to talk about our new $36 million living center in the heart of Chicago at the Chicago River and State Street – Marina City. I’m going to tell you about the blood and guts of its design and do a crystal ball on the way men may expect to find cities in the next 40 years of this century.

My Mother-in-law asked me to describe the Central City planning which Marina City envisions. I went through a rather lengthy and philosophical explanation, and she said very simply and brightly, “Oh, that’s what we used to call living above the store.”

Where “living-above-the-store” is still possible, certain critical and difficult problems which are a part of our daily downtown Central City life don’t exist.

There is no commuting problem, except to get downstairs to work.

There is no service problem. The high population density makes all services available, cheaply and quickly.

There is no “cultural” problem. The community is its own culture: the museum or the concert is the “guy next door” – and not the trip which must be deliberately undertaken to absorb a higher experience. There is more leisure and more ways to use it for the man who “lives above the store.”

There is another interesting by-product in taxes and all other kinds of building expense. It costs less to live above the store than it does to live away from work.

Finally, men-most men- like the action that comes from living together. We like the market place, we like the forum. We like the social and mental heat that we generate when we rub against each other. We like cities.

In today’s program, I am first going to describe city planning-how it got way out in orbit as science in the 19th Century, how it is coming back to use in the 20th in the warmth of humanism, and under the guidance of our tax needs.

Finally, I am going to look ahead into the plans for our future cities:

What is a City?

Do men make them; or are they in the blood as a way or life?

What are the rules of planning for a city today?

Lewis Mumford, who has spent most of his life as a critic of cities, believes that the ability of the City to attract non-residents to it for intercourse and spiritual stimulus, no less than trade, remains one of the essential criteria of the city, a witness to its inherent dynamism–as opposed to the more fixed and indrawn form of the village, hostile to the outsider.

The city is that meeting place where men come and go, generating by their movements the material growth and human experience which are the life-stuff of the city. This sense of movement is inherent in the city and is its contrast to the settlement to the village. The movement of the city is both spiritual and material and the city becomes the symbol of the possible.

Are cities in our blood?

Are cities the natural forms of shelter which men build for themselves? Like the spider his web, or the oyster his shell? The answer to this is uncertain, but I believe it to be – yea. Men have in every known culture built some kind of city, some center of human movement. Priest cities, trade cities, king cities, culture cities, work cities – these have existed in cultures-Mesopotamian and Mexican alike. Men, whether in outer space or Alberta, will make a city.

Aristotle said, “Men come together in the city to live; they remain there in order to live the good life.”

The city is that meeting place needed by men where they must freely come and go.

Now, the rules for planning the meeting place.

The varied opinions on cities in the 19th Century produced what we call the science of city planning. The same kind of thinking of the 19th Century, which induced Darwin to take the history of man from the Bible and into the field of science, also led City Planning from the field of art into the field of statistics, economics under the major heading of Science. It is a long way from the warm, spontaneous planning of Piazza San Marco in Venice to the rigidity of Ludwig Hilbersheimer.

The 19th Century promised us all kinds of scientific solutions. The economic millennium was just around the corner. The basic solution to the physical world was imminent. The 19th Century assured us that, “If you can only reduce human problems to statistics, these problems can be solved on an unemotional, scientific level.”

If men can be split into the problems of production and problems of the body, we can establish the science of City Planning.

We needed 19th Century Marxism before Frank Lloyd Wright could give us Broad-Acre City. We needed the Marxist concept called “production” that was separate from the thing called “people.”

The 19th Century scientific approach also gave us Freud, and the Science of Psychoanalysis. Human problems were determined in childhood and the importance of the later environment was minimized. When environment disappeared as a determinant of behavior, the scientists of city planners could regulate men and human life as they have tried to regulate production, traffic and other materialistic problems.

One of the intellectual heirs to the Science of Planning was Corbusier.

Corbusier said, in about 1925, that the right angle is the essential and sufficient implement of action, because it enables us to determine space of absolute exactness.

He says that the main thesis of his city planning is that such a vast and complicated machine is the modern great city-that it can only be made adequately to function on a basis of strict functional order.

Mies van der Rohe in his introduction to Hilbersheimer’s book says, “Reason is the first principle of all human work.” Mies says that city planning is in essence of a work of order.

Hilbersheimer, himself a famous planner, has stated the problem in this fashion, “The solutions we seek for our cities must be based upon economic realities.”

This 19th Century trend of transforming human components to their scientific symbols continues with men like Corbusier, van der Rohe and Hilbersheimer to dominate the Science of City Planning.

But there has also grown up what I call the Anti-Science of City Planning. This new Scientific Anti-Science is a mark of health – a mark of resolution that cities are planned for men and non one really has successfully designed a standard package for the standard man.

For example, we have always planned our cities for families with children, but no one has troubled to determine what is a child. As we live longer, as we become healthier, we wish to prolong our youth, we wish our children to remain children for a longer period of time, and as a consequence, the family unit remains as such for a longer period of time. Our children still in college when they are beyond the legal age limit are still called “children.”

This family unit with the adult child is not the same type of family unit for which one plans suburban sandboxes. Here we see the first inroads of the science of planning for families with children. We no longer know what they are.