Camillo Sitte (1843-1903)
Why do people come from all over the world to visit the medieval European city? This city remnant of the past is usually an unplanned urban core frequently containing castles and churches, and occasionally bounded at least in part by a surviving defensive wall. It is usually surrounded by a more modern city. What makes this ancient city so attractive? Why do people so enjoy walking itsr streets, plazas, parks and pathways? What is the secret? Camillo Sitte believed he had found the answer.
Camillo Sitte died over a 100 years ago, yet his insights into city patterns supportive of the urban environment still have value today. He is best known among urban planners and architects for his 1889 book City Planning According to Its Artistic Principles. He strongly criticized the prevailing emphasis in European city planning of the time on broad, straight boulevards, public squares arranged primarily for the convenience of traffic, and efforts to strip major public or religious landmarks of adjoining smaller structures that were regarded as encumbering such monuments of the past.
Sitte proposed to follow the design objectives associated with the streets and buildings that shaped medieval cities. He advocated curving or irregular street alignments to provide ever-changing vistas. He pointed out the advantages of what came to be know as "turbine squares", civic spaces served by streets entering in such a way as to resemble a pinwheel in plan. His teachings became widely accepted in Austria, Germany, and Scandinavia. In less than a decade, his style of urban design came to be accepted as the norm in those countries.
The 1920s avant-garde, on the other hand, emphatically rejected Sitte’s theory. The Ville Contemporaine plan by Le Corbusier exemplified this rejection of all that Sitte believed.The centerpiece of this plan was a group of sixty-story cruciform skyscrapers that housed both offices and the flats ofwealthy inhabitants. The skyscrapers were set within large, park-like green spaces. The pedestrian circulation paths were segregated from the roadways, which glorified the use of the automobile as a means of transportation. As one moved out from the city center, smaller multi-story zigzag blocks set in green space and set far back from the street housed the workers.