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Modernist Architecture

acesso 31/01/2015

A Database of Modernist Architectural Theory

CIAMs La Sarraz Declaration (1928)

Translated by Michael Bullock.
From Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture.
(The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 1971).
The undersigned architects, representing the national groups of modern architects,
affirm their unity of viewpoint regarding the fundamental conceptions of architecture
and their professional obligations towards society.
They insist particularly on the fact that building is an elementary activity of man
intimately linked with evolution and the development of human life. The destiny of
architecture is to express the orientation of the age. Works of architecture can spring
only from the present time.
They therefore refuse categorically to apply in their working methods means that may
have been able to illustrate past societies; they affirm today the need for a new
conception of architecture that satisfies the spiritual, intellectual, and material demands
of present-day life. Conscious of the deep disturbances of the social structure brought
about by machines, they recognize that the transformation of the economic order and of
social life inescapably brings with it a corresponding transformation of the architectural
The intention that brings them together here is to attain the indispensable and urgent
harmonization of the elements involved by replacing architecture on its true plane, the
economic, and sociological plane. Thus architecture must be set free from the
sterilizing grip of the academies that are concerned with preserving the formulas of the

Animated by this conviction, they declare themselves members of an association and

will give each other mutual support on the international plane with a view to realizing
their aspirations morally and materially.
I. General Economic System
1. The idea of modern architecture includes the link between the phenomenon of
architecture and that of the general economic system.
2. The idea of economic efficiency does not imply production furnishing maximum
commercial profit, but production demanding a minimum working effort.
3. The need for maximum economic efficiency is the inevitable result of the
impoverished state of the general economy.
4. The most efficient method of production is that which arises from rationalization and
standardization. Rationalization and standardization act directly on working methods
both in modern architecture (conception) and in the building industry (realization).
5. Rationalization and standardization react in a threefold manner:
(a) they demand of architecture conceptions leading to simplification of working
methods on the site and in the factory;
(b) they mean for building firms a reduction in the skilled labor force; they lead to the
employment of less specialized labor working under the direction of highly skilled
(c) they expect from the consumer (that is to say the customer who orders the house in
which he will live) a revision of his demands in the direction of a readjustment to the
new conditions of social life. Such a revision will be manifested in the reduction of
certain individual needs henceforth devoid of real justification; the benefits of this
reduction will foster the maximum satisfaction of the needs of the greatest number,
which are at present restricted.
6. Following the dissolution of the guilds, the collapse of the class of skilled craftsmen
is an accomplished fact. The inescapable consequence of the development of the
machine has led to industrial methods of production different from and often opposed to
those of the craftsmen. Until recently, thanks to the teaching of the academies, the
architectural conception has been inspired chiefly by the methods of craftsmen and not
by the new industrial methods. This contradiction explains the profound
disorganization of the art of building.
7. It is urgently necessary for architecture, abandoning the outmoded conceptions
connected with the class of craftsmen, henceforth to rely upon the present realities of
industrial technology, even though such an attitude must perforce lead to products
fundamentally different from those of past epochs.

II. Town Planning

1. Town planning is the organization of the functions of collective life; it extends both
the urban agglomerations and the countryside. Town planning is the organization of life
in all regions.
Urbanization cannot be conditioned by the claims of pre-existent aestheticism: its
essence is of a functional order.
2. This order includes three functions: (a) dwelling, (b) producing, (c) relaxation (the
maintenance of the species).
Its essential objects are: (a) division of the soil, (b) organization of traffic, (c)
3. The relationships between the inhabited areas, the cultivated areas (including sports)
and the traffic areas are dictated by the economic and social environment. The fixing of
population densities establishes the indispensable classification.
The chaotic division of land, resulting from sales, speculations, inheritances, must be
abolished by a collective and methodical land policy.
The redistribution of the land, the indispensable preliminary basis for any town
planning, must include the just division between the owners and the community of the
unearned increment resulting from works of joint interest.
4. Traffic control must take in all the functions of collective life. The growing intensity
of these vital functions, always checked against a reading of statistics, demonstrates the
supreme importance of the traffic phenomenon.
5. Present-day technical facilities, which are constantly growing, are the very key to
town planning. They imply and offer a total transformation of existing legislation; this
transformation must run parallel with technical progress.
III. Architecture and Public Opinion
1. It is essential today for architects to exercise an influence on public opinion by
informing the public of the fundamentals of the new architecture. Through the baneful
effects of academic teaching, opinion has strayed into an erroneous conception of the
dwelling. The true problems of the dwelling have been pushed back behind entirely
artificial sentimental conceptions. The problem of the house is not posed.
Clients, whose demands are motivated by numerous factors that have nothing to do with
the real problem of housing, are generally very bad at formulating their wishes.
Opinion has gone astray. Thus the architect satisfies the normal prerequisites of housing
only poorly. This inefficiency involves the country in an immense expense that is a
total loss. The tradition is created of the expensive house, the building of which
deprives a large part of the population of healthy living quarters.

Through educational work carried out in schools, a body of fundamental truths could be
established forming the basis for a domestic science (for example: the general economy
of the dwelling, the principles of property and its moral significance, the effects of
sunlight, the ill effects of darkness, essential hygiene, rationalization of household
economics, the use of mechanical devices in domestic life, etc.).
3. The effect of such an education would be to bring up generations with a healthy and
rational conception of the house. These generations (the [112] architects future clients)
would be capable of correctly stating the problem of housing.
IV. Architecture and Its Relations with the State
1. Modern architects having the firm intention of working according to the new
principles can only regard the official academies and their methods tending towards
aestheticism and formalism as institutions standing in the way of progress.
2. These academies, by definition and by function, are the guardians of the past. They
have established dogmas of architecture based on the practical and aesthetic methods of
historical periods. Academies vitiate the architects vocation at its very origin.
3. In order to guarantee the countrys prosperity, therefore, States must tear the teaching
of architecture out of the grip of the academies. The past teaches us precisely that
nothing remains, that everything evolves, and that progress constantly advances.
4. States, henceforth withdrawing their confidence from the academies, must revise the
methods of teaching architecture and concern themselves with all those questions whose
object is to endow the country with the most productive and most advanced system of
5. Academicism causes States to spend considerable sums on the erection of
monumental buildings, contrary to the efficient utilization of resources, making a
display of outmoded luxury at the expense of the most urgent tasks of town planning
and housing.
6. Within the same order of ideas, all the prescriptions of the State which, in one form or
another, tend to influence architecture by giving it a purely aesthetic direction are an
obstacle to its development and must be vigorously combated.
7. Architectures new attitude, according to which it aims of its own volition to resituate itself within economic reality, renders all claims to official patronage
8. If States were to adopt an attitude opposite to their present one they would bring
about a veritable architectural renaissance that would take place quite naturally within
the general orientation of the countrys economic and social development.
June 28th, 1928
The Declaration was signed by the following architects:

H.P. Berlage
Victor Bourgeois
Pierre Chareau
Josef Frank
Gabriel Guvrkian
Max Ernst Haefeli
Hugo Hring
Arnold Hchel
Huib Hoste
Pierre Jeanneret
Le Corbusier
Andr Lurat
Sven Markelius
Ernst May
Fernando Garca Mercadal
Hannes Meyer
Werner Max Moser
Carlo Enrico Rava
Gerrit Rietveld
Alberto Sartoris
Hans Schmidt
Mart Stam
Rudolf Steiger
Szymon Syrkus
Henri-Robert von der Mhll

Juan de Zavala