Colin Rowe and Aldo Rossi. Utopia as Metaphor of a New City Analogous to the Existing One

by

Alioscia Mozzato

Keywords

  • Colin Rowe
  • Aldo Rossi
  • analogous city
  • Collage City
  • Correspondences
  • utopia

The particular attention dedicated to the concept of Utopia by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in _Collage City _is fundamental for understanding the critical position of the two authors regarding the relationship between architecture and politics with respect to the project of the city.

Compared with the ‘critique of the ideology’ described by Manfredo Tafuri in his book Progetto e Utopia, utopia – interpreted in design as synthesis between the instances of ‘imagination’ and those of ‘reality’ – assumes the role of ‘poetic image’ of a possible future foreign to any ideology, that is, unconnected to every instance of a political nature understood as intellectual and concrete action in the world.

Through what could be considered a Geistesgeschichte of Utopia, Rowe and Koetter highlight a subtle yet original distinction between “utopia as an, implicit, object of contemplation and utopia as an, explicit, instrument of social change.”

An indispensable instrument of the urban project through which “a possibly just society is conceptualized and represented,” according to the two authors, utopia must assume an eminently poetic character by removing any empirical, literal and ideological purpose, so that its contents may become a pure and transcendent “conceptual necessity,” essentially, a ‘metaphor’ of a possible city.

“Utopia as a possible social metaphor rather than probable social prescription” and history as concrete material of the project ensure the continuous intersection between a necessary, ideal and fantastic pre-figuration and an empirical functionality that derives design materials from the existing context and traditions.

With reference to Aldo Rossi’s incomplete theory of the ‘Analogous City,’ the meaning of “Utopia as metaphor” described by Rowe and Koetter in Collage City seems to be that of a planning tool in which ‘imagination’, born from tangible matter, looks at the city as “the context of experience” and ‘history’ becomes “a series of things, of affective objects to be used by the memory or in a design.”