CIAM’s 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 phenomenon.

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 past.

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.

[110]

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 technicians;

(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) legislation.

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] architect’s 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 architect’s vocation at its very origin.

3. In order to guarantee the country’s 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 organization.

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. Architecture’s new attitude, according to which it aims of its own volition to re-situate itself within economic reality, renders all claims to official patronage superfluous.

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 country’s 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 Guévrékian

Max Ernst Haefeli

Hugo Häring

Arnold Höchel

Huib Hoste

Pierre Jeanneret

Le Corbusier

André Lurçat

Sven Markelius

Ernst May

Fernando García 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 Mühll

Juan de Zavala

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~ by Ross Wolfe on September 8, 2011.

4 Responses to “CIAM’s La Sarraz Declaration (1928)”

  1. […] La Sarraz Declaration.  Translated by Michael Bullock.  Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture.  (The […]

  2. […] La Sarraz Declaration.  Translated by Michael Bullock.  Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture.  (The […]

  3. […] West. “The collapse of the class of skilled craftsmen is an established fact,” CIAM said at the outset of the 20th century, and so with hand-drafting at century’s end. The practice […]

  4. […] Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. The MIT Pess. Cambridge, MA: 1971 [online], Available at https://modernistarchitecture.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/ciams-la-sarraz-declaration-1928/ [Accessed: November 29th 2012 […]

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