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The Caniggian and Conzenian Schools: How different Essay Sample

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The Caniggian and Conzenian Schools: How different Essay Sample

It is realised that the work of M. R. G. Conzen1 has been of great importance to the studies of Urban Morphology. Towns like any other geographical investigations are, subject to change. They have the histories of growth, expansion, decline and stagnation which in Conzen’s post-war analysis of Alnwick, Northumberland has proved to be cyclical. Studies of this practice, especially by Conzen himself, has provided the foundation for extensive work of wider countenance of urban form. Gianfranco Caniggia, an Italian Architect, working at the same time as Conzen, seems to have shared certain views of urban studies with those of his contemporary.

Fundamentally both Caniggia and Conzen realise that the understanding and clarity of the city depends on its history. They both assume a close relation between the system of values of a society and urban morphology but as Whitehand (1993) and Marzot (1997) both agree their differences of approach needs vocalisation. For Kropf (1986), Caniggia and Conzen afford the means of pursuing, and eventually articulating, a philosophical position that emphasises the relationship between the historico-geographical explanation of the development of urban forms and the exact method of urban design. `

To unravel how different or conversely, how similar these two schools are, the two scholars theories and understandings will be analysed in turn to determine a distinction between them. When studying the difference between the schools it must first be emphasised that the most major contrast between both scholars Conzen (1960, 1975) and Caniggia (1963, 1997) is that they are from quite different disciplines and they arrived at their common conclusions quite independently.

According to Whitehand (1981) Conzen believes, ‘quintessentially the past provides the key to the future. ‘ Caniggia (1997) also states ‘past is to be considered the main influencing factor to the present time. ‘ They both therefore, agree that history played a major role in the urban phenomena, the varying importance and emphasis they place on different elements of history and urban form and design must therefore be analysed. As these differences amount to differing views of the significance of history.

In the view of Conzen (1960, p. ), history is embodied in the townscape, which is interpreted as a multilayered manifestation of the different processes of urban development. Therefore, Conzen places most emphasis on the historical expressiveness or the historicity of the urban landscape (Whitehand, 1993). The townscape is the appropriate subject to investigation in seeking knowledge of the built environment within a time sequence. In this evolutionary approach by Conzen (1960, p7), as distinct from Caniggia’s evolutionary approach, remnant elements in the townscape are traced back to their past periods.

Regions vary in the sequence and contents of the cultural periods that affect them and Conzen believes that this is true of towns as well. Those causes are to be found in economic and social developments, which occurs more or less as distinct phases, termed ‘morphological periods’. Each morphological period produces distinct features, the residuals of which make up the present townscape. The Conzenian townscape is a heritage. It is also a constraint on the subsequent development of a town.

But the influence that building structures may have upon subsequent generations of building structures is not part of the conception. Individuals and communities express their socio-economic values in townscape, but Conzen does not explore the way in which they derive rules from earlier features. Subsequently, his ‘burgage cycle’ (1960, pp92-7) leads to a redevelopment but the implications of one cycle for the next are not discussed. Conzen (1975,p. 100) refers to the way in which the essence of society is objectivated in its urban morphology.

He believed the urban landscapes embodied not only the endeavours and aspirations of the people living in them now but also those of their predecessors. Conzen relates to the feeling of continuity and suggests that this and a sense of place, enables groups and individuals to identify and empathise with an area. The townscape is viewed as a manifestation of the values pertaining in that society in each of a series of historical periods (morphological periods), but the connections between the building types and tissues characteristic of different periods are not explored.

Conzen (1969) argues that when one period has achieved the manifestation of its own requirements in the urban pattern of land use i. e. streets, plots and building. Another supersedes it in turn and the built-up area in its functional organisation as well as in its townscape becomes an accumulated record of town’s development. With the exception of the pre-historic and Roman eras, the major morphological periods in the case of Alnwick are those applicable to the rest of England.

The features of one period are subject to change in another to a varying degree as the pattern of land use is dynamic, responding to new infrastructure such as the establishment of new roads, bridges and stations. According to Conzen the area of townscape is thus, an incomplete and confused record because of the changes. Buildings and tissues created in particular periods are not interpreted as deriving their forms from types that existed in previous periods. Conversely, for Caniggia, every building is a product of modifications to previously existing buildings, in a never-ending process of derivations.

In other words, the story of each building does not start when the building itself is constructed, but begins when the town starts. Subsequently, Conzen emphasises the close relation between the socio-economic and political requirements of a society in a particular period and conversely the form taken by buildings constructed in that period. He identifies three basic form complexes, the town plan, building forms and land use. Caniggia (1979,pp51-4), however, is concerned with the evolution of the form that buildings take what he calls the ‘typological process’.

That is, to recover the ‘structure of the first building’ as the unavoidable forward to the generative planning of future developments to produce a typological zoning, to define the acceptability of building changes. ‘Unwritten building codification by identifying history and structure, where the latter is to be identified as a self-consistent system of relationships among different features constituting the whole. ‘ (Caniggia, 1997). Caniggia studied problems with the ‘ordinary building’ rather than the property system and infrastructural one that Conzen analyses.

Caniggia identified two fold perspectives of nineteenth century towns. The consistent infill of the old ‘Kernels’ (Caniggia, 1979) “pertinent areas” which led to an ever more crowded life condition. Also a planning approach involving new urban tissues or traumatic renovation of the already existing ones. Caniggia identified opposition between the “spontaneous city”, as such intended because of the bulk of consistent adaptations to the surveyed buildings even if previously planned and the “planned city”, suddenly became evident.

Similarly however, Conzen did identify that adaptation rather than replacement of existing fabric is more likely to occur over the greater part of a built up area established in a previous period. Conzen, deepened his argument however, by discussing that older buildings are liable to be replaced by new ones in larger numbers, only in the centres of sizeable towns, where economic pressures overcome the obsolesce of inherited form and lead to replacement on a larger scale (Whitehand 1984). History suggested to Caniggia a system of rules and planning practice that were deeply rooted in local tradition.

He suggested that here was a conceptual framework for control of the built environment. Caniggia equates human history and natural history. Each entailed the processes of birth, maturity and death. It was suggested that the products of the past were continued in the building fabric and a continuation of past human labours. In this way Caniggia (1963 pp12-22, 1979 pp203-49) recognised, in traditional urban forms, rules for solving planning problems. Despite the socio-economic differences between historical periods, history provided Caniggia with a stable basis for management of towns today.

His distinction between ‘cycles’ and ‘phases’ is only understandable in this context, according to Marzot (1997). He believes that recurrent urban growth and standstills had occurred since the fourteenth century and until the nineteenth century, one that caused, ‘widespread process of systematic “capillary mutations”. (mutazioni capillari) within the pre-existing buildings in order to adapt them to the emerging new life needs. ‘ (Caniggia, 1997). The distinction between ‘cycles’ and ‘phases’ is intended a conceptualisation of a historical theory for the purposes of planning the modern town in continuity with the traditional one.

Caniggia helped develop new research of the new discipline conceived as an ‘historical-processual building typology. ‘ ( tipologia ediliza storico-processuale). New research in this field developed the concept of ‘building type’ (Tipo edilizio) expressed the way of ‘living a house’ in a completely new approach. Caniggia looked at ‘hidden architecture’ (architectrura nascota) that is history and structure. He found that there is a ‘hidden architecture’ within a homogeneous local building community despite the ‘unavoidable corruption’s due to the possible connections with other cultures’ (Caniggia 1997).

Therefore, when discussing how different the Caniggian schools and Conzenian schools are it is evident that both schools are similar in the fact that “Fundamental to the thinking of Caniggia, as to that of Conzen, is the view that the intelligibility of the city depends on is history. “(Whitehand, 1993). They both studied medieval towns 3 and the layout of urban form and design. Researching at similar times from the mid-twentieth century onwards, they both initiated new approaches to the thinking of the urban phenomena and encouraged further new research.

As Whitehand states, ‘on the way to establishing a basis for managing urban landscapes it is a short step from this fundamental belief to regarding the city as a source of accumulated wisdom. ‘ However, it has been seen that the roles that Caniggia and Conzen ascribe to history are very different. Caniggia as an Architect, looked particularly in detail at individual buildings4, the role that their evolution has in history and how if each layer of the building was pealed back it represents the past.

Caniggia (1997) believes the ‘past is to be considered the main influencing factor to the present time and for this reason one can discover in the actual building products their own rules of construction and development through a systematic work of the interpretation of the surveys. ‘ From there Caniggia also looked at the layout of towns with regard to ‘urban planning’ and ‘Monuments Restoration’ (renovation) as recognised disciplines concerned with urban structure knowledge. This school of thought overlaps somewhat with Conzen who looked at urban planning, building forms and land use.

However as an Urban Morphologist, he looked at towns with a different view to the Architect. Conzen shed new light on a previously undistinguished discipline. Conzen is different from Caniggia because he states, ‘Plan, building fabric and land utilisation are of course interdependent in the geographical reality of the townscape and their treatment separately can only be a matter of emphasis and not sharp division. ‘(Conzen 1960; 4). The town plan is nevertheless recognised by Conzen (1960) and Whitehand (1967) to be fundamental to the other morphological elements ‘forming an inescapable framework for the other man-made features. (Conzen 1960; 4).

Differing from Caniggia as Conzen spreads from the layout of the town he goes on to look at the townscape landscape as a whole. As from this comparison of land use, building fabrics and town plan, the last emerges as the complex that encapsulates the fullest record of the town’s physical development because it produces the most complete collection of residual features. Finally, it has been seen that both Caniggia and Conzen look at similar aspects to the urban phenomena, but they ascribe very different roles to history with regards to the evolution of the townscape and they analyse varying elements within it.

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