In search of the rational city


  • Anna Mielnik



Lots of studies and projects about the city today are focused mainly on different types of transformations, leading to “new” urban configurations that will ultimately deal with “new” contemporary and future problems. They seem, however, to forget about the human being whose perception and comprehension of the city is mainly based on its past. There are still some attempts made to address the rational balance of old and new, of traditional and modern, of purely formal and purely functional, of beauty and progressive aspects of the city. The article explores the theme of rational attitude in architecture and urban planning. The author searched for traces of such themes in contemporary developments of the IJburg district of Amsterdam and of the Ypenburg Center near The Hague. These examples may help to discuss the role and critical potential of the traditional urban and building typology in the transformation process of cities and territories that lead to new urban configurations. Both the above-mentioned projects use “old” well known, readable, clearly defined and of human scale urban and architectural types (peripheral blocks, towers, main streets, public squares, semi-private courtyards) as design tools that can provide extraordinary creative and instrumental possibilities; types that represent not only an abstraction of urban and building configuration, but act as carriers of cultural meaning and identity. The author looks to address this question and explore possible solutions that will reinstate the rational city in the present day.