The Sixties did not mark significant changes in the trend of building development of the city and of the territory: the expansion of the suburbs proceeds with a disorderly urbanization of the countryside; the skyscrapers are growing in the central areas destined for tertiary activities; the deterioration of the “gray areas” of the old neighborhoods continues, occasionally affected by limited renovations (Urban Renewal) which, in fact, do not solve and often aggravate residential problems. On the other hand, there is a notable turning point in the architectural language, implemented by the most advanced researches, the symptoms of which begin to be felt towards the end of the 1950s. It is a reaction to the cold stereometry and high productivity of the manner of L. Mies van der Rohe. It is the work of this German, who heads the Illinois Institute of Technology, the essential model for post-war commercial and office building; a model that expresses its points of arrival with the Seagram’s Building in New York (1958) and the Federal Court Building in Chicago (1965): crystal prisms that conceal every different function housed in them, closed by a sheath resulting from the rhythmic and undifferentiated repetition of the window element. Standardized element which, in the case of Mies’ works, is studied with precision by a goldsmith; and in current cases it is a common series product (Curtain Wall). closed by a sheath resulting from the rhythmic and undifferentiated repetition of the window element. Standardized element which, in the case of Mies’ works, is studied with precision by a goldsmith; and in current cases it is a common series product (Curtain Wall). closed by a sheath resulting from the rhythmic and undifferentiated repetition of the window element. Standardized element which, in the case of Mies’ works, is studied with precision by a goldsmith; and in current cases it is a common series product (Curtain Wall).
Between Mies’ very high level of quality and the crudest practice of speculation, there is an intermediate level, corresponding to the large coordinated design firms (e.g., L. Skidmore, NA Owings and J. Merrill, based in New York, San Francisco and Chicago), with high-quality buildings produced in the framework of exceptional organizational efficiency. It is these studies that are responsible for the face of citiesAmericans, to record and confirm the linguistic turning point of the Sixties, the precedents of which can be identified, starting from 1956-58, in some works by Ph. Johnson (various versions of the project for the Lincoln Center in New York) and E. Saarinen (USA Embassy in London, TWA Terminal in Idlewild); but above all in all the work of L. Kahn, the èstone architect who is a clear alternative to the Miesian school, already from 1951-53, with the Art Gallery of the Yale University; and, around 1960, with the Richards Laboratories and Bryn Mawr dormitories in Philadelphia. Kahn’s work, which will not have a hold on the American metropolis, and will develop in the Third World in the last period before his death (1972), testifies to a new “Enlightenment” confidence in architecture, to go back to the eternal values of classicism and geometry; an attitude clearly against the tide, with respect to the productivist pragmatism of the international style, which will have great teaching strength and success among young people. Alongside Kahn, on what has been called “the Philadelphia-Yale axis”, we must mention P. Rudolph, different for his dynamic and anti-classical design methodology, but equally oriented towards a radical revision of the rationalist style for a new form monumentality (Yale School of Art, 1962; Government Center of Boston, 1963; in addition to the projects for New York: Lower Manhattan Expressway and Graphic Art Center, 1967). Other names of this postulated renaissance of “image” architecture are IM Pei, R. Giurgola, V. Lundy, J. Johansen, K. Roche, B. Goldberg;
The Kahnian emphasis was followed by a reaction that matured in the seventies, but originated in the previous decade: the book by R. Venturi, Complexity and contraditions in architecture of 1966, which a critic like V. Scully does not hesitate to approach, in importance to Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture is a skeptical and “American” reaction to L. Kahn’s call to order and totalizing culturalism. Venturi assumes the contradictions of reality and expresses them in architecture as the coexistence of opposites (Guild House of Filadelfia, 1963), according to an intellectual attitude that will develop in pure acceptance, with veins of irony, of American reality, approaching, along this path, to pop art(B. Franklin axis arrangement in Philadelphia; studies for Las Vegas and California City, Los Angeles). This critical position, and the others, albeit different, that can be accompanied by the same level of refined intellectuality (for example: C. Moore, D. Lyndon, J. Esherick, the Five: M. Graves, J. Hejduk, P. Eisenman, R. Meier, C. Gwathmey; to quote the best known) have as obliged outlets teaching, on the one hand, and glossy pages of magazines, on the other. The city, on the other hand, does not seem to register this research in the least; in the suffocating traffic jam of its streets there is no room for quality: what can be made evident is only the quantity. In this sense, “super-skyscrapers” can be included: new types of the tertiary sector which, starting from the World Trade Center (M. Yamasaki, 1967-70, near the tip of Manhattan), become essential elements in the skyline of the major metropolises. To the two gigantic identical prisms of New York which, with their hermetic and shocking silhouette, already exceed 300 meters in height,New Deal, is immediately added the John Hancock of Chicago (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, 1968-70), an immense metal lattice structure left in sight with impressive frankness; then the John Hancock of Boston and, finally, the tallest of all, the Sears Tower of Chicago. These are dimensions that no longer allow a judgment based on traditional critical tools: entire vertical cities within which residences, offices, shops, services of all kinds, garages and transport try to restore the organizational rationality that the city now denies. And it goes without saying that each of these creations only adds to the chaos of the surrounding urban area.
The race to the highest heights seems to come to a halt today due to a crisis that endangers even the most rational residential urban restructuring projects, very belatedly launched under the pressure of an intolerable need (e.g. Welfare Island by Ph. Johnson and J. Burgee ; Twin Parks Northeast by R. Meier).