By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


User friendly


Giancarlo De Carlo: Des Lieux, Des Hommes At the Pompidou Centre, Paris, until 14 June (and then to Geneva, Brighton and Rome). Eponymous French language book co-published by Centre Pompidou/Edition Axel Menges, e 39.90 Giancarlo De Carlo - architect, multitalented uomo universale, and thoroughly good egg - was to have taken part in a debate about his work when this Pompidou Centre show opened. Unhappily, ill health prevented him from doing so, but he did send a request:

'Don't talk too much about Urbino, I am not only Urbino.' In fact, the most enlightening contribution to the ensuing discussion came from a former ILAUD (International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design) workshop student, who had failed fully to appreciate De Carlo's gifts as a teacher until he tried to run a summer school himself - to his surprise, this proved to be trÞs difficile.

The Pompidou Centre recently landed a catch of sketches, drawings and models from several different points in De Carlo's career (some donated, some purchased).

These new acquisitions and other material, including a long video interview recorded earlier this year and various loans, are deployed with considerable skill to give an overview of De Carlo's trajectory from the late 1940s to today.

A larger-than-life De Carlo delivers two illustrated tutorials in French in different parts of the gallery. Edited extracts from the recent video interview, inter-cut with audio-visual sequences on specific episodes, designs and buildings, deal separately with his early work and with more recent buildings and projects.

Related models, drawings and artefacts are grouped within easy range, so they can be readily placed in the context of his discourse and better understood.

Plans and a model for the steelworkers' housing at Terni (1969-74), for instance, immediately acquire added interest and meaning when seen in the light of De Carlo's description of the participation process that informed his designs, and later film footage showing the built project after users had transformed their terraced balconies into flourishing gardens (see picture).

Similarly, as numerous image-obsessed imitators have made his Mazzorbo island housing (1979-85) look so hackneyed at second hand, it is salutary to be reminded that this modest development was designed to meet local housing needs and to be as inconspicuous as possible when seen across the lagoon from Venice.

De Carlo's activities as writer, editor and polemicist are represented by back numbers, first editions and archive photographs, while didactic entertainment is provided by a silent knockabout comedy film entitled Una lezione di urbanistica, which he made with Billa Zanuso for the Milan Mostra dell' Urbanistica of 1954.

The ILAUD summer workshops De Carlo founded in 1976 are represented on video, while his work as an architect and urbanist in Urbino from the 1950s has certainly not been overlooked (AJ 13.2.03). A number of De Carlo-designed chairs are also on show, among them a delightful Ratan chair (1959) and the equally endearing Xenitia chair (1992), produced for the Faculty of Letters lecture hall at Catania University, Sicily.

One way or another, the breadth and depth of De Carlo's multifarious activities - and a palpable sense of his integrity, commitment, perseverance and charisma - are evoked in an exhibition that is neither exhaustive nor exhausting but refreshingly low-key.

Conversely, the book published in lieu of a catalogue seems to have been thrown together in haste. The type is tiny and the illustrations disappointing. It contains introductions by FrÚdÚric Migayrou, Denis Dubois-FerriÞre and Jacqueline Stanic, some four-dozen project descriptions, 10 long essays by John McKean (in French translation) and a bibliography, but no index.

Charlotte Ellis is an architectural writer in Paris.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters