Constantinos A. Doxiadis: A Great Figure in 20th Century Human Settlement

An interdisciplinary approach is necessary to study the evolution of human settlements from the most primitive phase to megalopolis and Ecumenopolis (city of the future).

The Greek planner Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1913-1975) is one of the great minds of the twentieth century whose work, thoughts, and ideas in city planning were not fully acknowledged. Doxiadis was president and chairman of Doxiadis Association International (1951), chairman of the Athens Technological Organization (1959) and president of the Athens Centre of Ekistics (1963). He also was consultant on Development and Ekistics, with head-quarters in Athens and offices in thirty-six countries. He was responsible for planning and designing a great number of settlements and other large-scale development projects, including urban renewal, housing, development of new cities, industrial settlements, commerce and tourism and communication and transportation. Doxiadis lectured extensively at universities in Europe and the United States. He also participated in numerous international conferences on urban problems and housing.

The concept of ‘ekistics’ has been defined by Doxiadis as “the science of human settlements”. This term was coined by Doxiadis from the Greek words “oikos” (home) and “oikõ” (settling down), in his lectures of 1942 at the Athens Technical University. Ekistics regards the human settlement as a living organism ruled by its own laws. Doxiadis believed that an interdisciplinary approach was necessary to study the evolution of human settlements from the most primitive phase to megalopolis and Ecumenopolis (city of the future).

The Iraq Housing Program was one of the major commissions for Doxiadis Associates from the Ministry of Development, where they could test their theories of human settlements. In addition to the detached houses, the Iraq Housing Program had included the design of high-rise blocks, which were intended to house officials, non-farming families and artisans. Another important contribution to the human settlement in 20th century was the ‘City of the Future (1961-1962). The idea of the project was born in the Athens Centre of Ekistics in 1960, and was funded by twenty-five percent of the income of Doxiadis’s architectural and planning projects. The concept of the project was to help the understanding of human settlements and to attempt to deal with the urgent problems of cities.

The aim of the project, as described by C.A. Doxiadis and J.G. Papaioannou, was to face the future of human settlements in a practical and realistic way. Another essential objective of the ‘City of the Future’ was the prediction of the most probable road that will be taken by population, energy, incomes and technology at their highest growth levels and the corresponding formation of human settlements merging into the City of the Future. In this way, they can prepare themselves to deal with the most difficult situation that might occur by building Ecumenopolis in the proper way and with a proper ecological balance for the sake of humanity. They also argued that if the growth did not reach this high level, then they are going to be even more successful in dealing with Ecumenopolis, their inevitable City of the Future.

The main body of knowledge of the City of the Future project was the result of the immense effort of many experts. Foremost among these, was Myrto Antonopoulou-Bogdanou, a Greek architect and planner, who was the project manager in 1964 and developed several aspects of the theory of the City of the Future. The team also included Dr R.L. Meier, an American environmental planner, Professor J. Tyrwhitt, a British architect, Professor J. Matos Mar, a Peruvian anthropologist, Professor M. Gomez Mayorga, a Mexican architect and Professor G. Gutenschwager, an American geographer. Other contributors were Dr Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, who contributed his historical perspective of the future of human settlements, Panagis Psomopoulos, a Greek architect and planner, Marion Carr, a British anthropologist, Hassan Fathy, who surveyed many cities, mainly in Africa.

There is no doubt that Doxiadis is one of the unacknowledged great figures of 20th century, and his work and influence is yet to be explored and appreciated. If his ‘City of the Future’ had been realised, it would have created a new state of balance between human, nature, and human settlements and the quality of life would probably be much better than it was at present as well as being better than at any previous time in the history of humankind.

Bibliography

J. Tyrwhitt, C.A. Doxiadis 1913-1975: Pursuit of an Attainable Ideal. Ekistics, v. 41, no. 247, June 1976, pp. 310-313.

C. A. Doxiadis and J. G. Papaioannou, Ecumenopolis: The Inevitable City of the Future. Athens, 1974, p. 436

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lucia anna
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Posted on Dec 2, 2010