Ettore Mazzola - Redesigning a Dysfunctional Neighborhood to be Healthy

“I am glad Suzanne proposed this title for my talk because what we are talking about today as the dysfunctional city is nothing more than what used to be called the ‘Functional’ city.”

In 1921, Corbusier, who, Ettore reminds us, was sponsored by the automobile manufacturer, Voisin, created a vision of a utopian city of 3 million inhabitants, based on the automobile. In 1925 he drew up plans for the destruction of what he considered the ‘dysfunctional’ Marais district of Paris, replacing it with a ‘Functional’ grid plan arrangement of tower blocks and highways, shopping malls and office blocks designed on the ‘car scale’ called ‘Plan Voisin’. In 1931, CIAM, with Corbusier a dominant voice in that group, proposed a vision of the Functional City, based on the idea of zoning.

The ‘Functional’ Modern planning and architecture principles have created unsustainable and socially damaging cities. Ettore presents a number of projects showing how dysfunctional modern projects can be rebuilt to become healthy towns that support mixed use, shops, schools, churches, civic buildings, workplaces, piazzas, green spaces and courtyards. First is the Corviale, a one kilometer-long public housing structure that the residents themselves dream of tearing down because it is such an inhospitable place to live.

He then shows the Zen public housing neighborhood in Palermo, built in a severe modern style in the ‘90s, which is like a monstrous jail, which fosters anti-social and criminal behavior. By using the familiar architectural language of Palermo – balconies, arches, courtyards and piazzas, and using local materials and traditional construction he can provide local residents employment and training and boost the local economy while building a humane, healthy and sustainable community.