Featured Plan: O.M. Ungers’ Roosevelt Island Proposal

om ungers roosevelt island axo 1975

O.M. Ungers’ competition entry for Roosevelt Island housing (1975) reflects an attempt in the 70’s to address the crisis of the city, more specifically the failure of modern architecture (from CIAM through even Team X) to address the urban condition.  Like others in the 70’s, Ungers resorts to a morphological strategy to reconnect the city to architecture.  His proposal, like early OMA schemes, relies on a deliberately generic distillation of form based on typology. His chart of typologies reflects the tension between individual buildings and a unified plan, between a “city within a city” and a city connected morphologically to it’s place.  The grid here serves both as a conceptual, euclidian base for the generation of building types, and of course a specific reference to the Manhattan grid. The rectilinear form and geometric layout serve typological abstraction made concrete, and writ large. (In many ways this is a precursor to the OMA projects of ‘bigness’ just as much as it is a subtle integration of urban form at the smaller scale of the street, block, and open space network.) These housing typologies emerged from his research of the site and its context, yet are abstracted, edited, recombined, reformulated and then distributed as part of the urban system.