Giancarlo de Carlo (1919-2005) was an Italian architect, planner, writer and educator who was one of the fiercest critics of what he saw as the failure of architecture in the C20. He was one of the founding members of Team X, a group of architects challenging the modernist doctrines as set out by CIAM and was a key figure in the discourse on participation in architecture. His 1969 lecture and consequent article, Architecture's Public, remains a seminal text on the need for the inclusion of users in the design process and the inherently political role of the architect. De Carlo never separated architecture from politics, he was active in the Italian anti-fascist resistance as well as the post-war Italian anarchist movement, remaining an anti-establishment figure critiquing both architectural practice and academia for their preoccupation with form and glossy images over the social and lived experience.
Much of de Carlo's built work is located in Urbino, a small Italian hill town for which he proposed a master plan between 1958-64, which has slowly been implemented over the past forty years. De Carlo's interventions in the form of new buildings and renovations have been carefully inserted into the built fabric and pay close attention to the social life of the town. Combined with his social housing at Terni, an industrial town close to Rome, the built work has provided a foundation for his views on the involvement of users and inhabitants in the design process. The Terni housing was built for workers of Italy's largest steel company and for de Carlo it was not only important to discern the wishes of the future inhabitants but to do so in company time. He insisted that workers be paid for these sessions and that management should not be allowed to attend. The steelworkers and their families were thus involved in each part of the design process with the architect assuming the role of educator and facilitator.
De Carlo's writings supported this architectural approach; he was editor of the bi-lingual journal, Spazio e Società published between 1978-2001, which covered architecture from across the world and paid attention both to high profile buildings as well as to vernacular and other more modest forms of architectural intervention. An inspiring educator, he also founded the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urbanism (ILAUD), an annual summer school that was established in 1976 and is still running. De Carlo was an intellectual who practiced architecture as a political profession that could not be separated from the context of its time: his work at Urbino and elsewhere shows an enormous respect and care for heritage whilst being open to technological advances and is characterised by an emphasis on the responsibility of the architect and the necessary relationship between practice and theory.
Giancarlo De Carlo, 'An Architecture of Participation', Perspecta, 17 (1980), 74-79.
---, 'Architecture's Public', in Architecture and Participation, ed. by Peter Blundell Jones, Doina Petrescu and Jeremy Till (Abingdon: Spon Press, 2007), pp. 3-22.
Giancarlo de Carlo, Ole Bouman and Roemer van Toorn, 'Architecture is too important to leave to the architects: a conversation with Giancarlo De Carlo', Volume, (2005), 21-26.
Benedict Zucchi and Giancarlo De Carlo, Giancarlo De Carlo (Oxford: Butterworth Architecture, 1992).
Peter Davey, 'Obituary: Giancarlo de Carlo 1919-2005', Architectural Review, 218 (2005), 30.
John McKean, Giancarlo De Carlo: Layered Places (Fellbach: Edition Axel Menges, 2004).
Naomi Miller, 'Review: [untitled]', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 64 (2005), 364-367.
"Professionals are against participation because it destroys the arcane privileges of specialisation, unveils the professional secret, strips bare incompetence, multiplies responsibilities and converts them from the private into the social.
Academic communities are against it because participation
nullifies all the schemes on which teaching and research are
- Giancarlo De Carlo, 'An Architecture of Participation', Perspecta, 17 (1980), 79.
"In reality, architecture has become too important to be left to
architects. A real metamorphosis is necessary to develop new
characteristics in the practice of architecture and new behavious
patterns in its authors: therefore all barriers between builders
and users must be abolished, so that building and using become two
different parts of the same planning process."
- Giancarlo De Carlo, 'Architecture's Public', in Architecture and Participation, ed. by Peter Blundell Jones, Doina Petrescu and Jeremy Till (Abingdon: Spon Press, 2007), p. 13.
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