Sep/30 Lecture

Archipelago Town - A sustainable model for urban growth

Archipelago Town-lines: an app proposing a new urban growth model gleaned from an architect’s traveling notes

Three "archipelago-towns"—Berlin, Beirut, Venice—reveal their hidden urban geometry, their rites and culture, and the possible future of urban growth and de-growth.
A work by conrad-bercah, architect.

Between 2009 and 2011 the state-less architect conrad-bercah lived in three different symbolic cities—Berlin, Beirut, Venice—analyzing and studying their less evident urban and social qualities.

‘Juxtaposing the hidden DNAs of these conglomerations,’ states conrad-bercah, ‘I have attempted to design a new theory to address both urban growth and de-growth. The theory is based on the figure of the archipelago, which, like Rome for Goethe, Paris for Walter Benjamin, or Venice for Ruskin, becomes a place-non-place in which the geometric lines of a truly sustainable—or possible—urban life may be perceived.’

‘The difference between tourist and traveler,’ wrote Paul Bowles in the Sheltering Sky, ‘is that the former accepts his own civilization without question, while the latter compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.’

Archipelago Town-lines is the result of a similar mind frame. conrad-bercah’s traveling notes (videos, interviews, interactive maps, diagrams, surveys) design a new urban geography that allows the ‘reader’ the freedom to create their own temporal and cultural connections traveling between the past and future of their own cities. This approach is reflected in the app’s last section, in which a growing number of video reviews by prominent architects, urban designers, journalists, historians, teachers, and cultural commentators suggest different readings and imaginary paths stimulated by Archipelago Town-lines.

Archipelago Town-lines has been released in English as an app for the ipad. It will be available for Amazon Kindle Fire and all tablets operating on an Android platform in 2014.


Founder, Director, C-B A

conrad-bercah is an architect and architectural/urban theorist. He is the founder and director of C-B A, Content for Bare Architecture, a studio actively engaged in defining a new A-B-C for architecture through a playful balance of theory and practice.

C-B A operates at the architectural and urban scale and is known for incorporating innovative ideas—from conception through development—in a low-key, essential (‘bare’) rhetoric. The firm’s projects include: Helsinki Central Library (2012), Alvar Aalto Otaniemi Campus (2012), Turin Stadio Filadelfia (2011).

conrad-bercah is the author of West Workroom, Towards a New Sobriety in Architecture (Charta, 2008), hailed as the best book of 2008 by Il Giornale dell'Architettura and Il Giornale dell'Arte.

conrad-bercah’s Archipelago Town-lines is the first installment of a MMM-Third Millennium Urban Trilogy to be released in its entirety in 2013 with Dystopic Town-Lines, A Nobel Project for Urbanity and Trash Town-Lines, The Discreet Fascism of Fashion. Another app—Water-Line, Memos for a Bare Architecture—developing a new architectural theory will also be available in 2013.

conrad-bercah is an irregular journalist/blogger for LINKiesta and an architectural critic for prominent magazines of the specialized press, including Abitare, Abitare Bulgaria, Compasses, Domus, The Plan.

conrad-bercah has a mixed background in all things architectural. After graduating from the Politecnico di Torino (1992), he apprenticed at the offices of Aldo Rossi and Ignazio Gardella in Milan before continuing his postgraduate education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (1996) and working at Pei Cobb Freed in New York City. He has since returned to Harvard as an instructor (1996), fellow (1997–2000), and design critic (2008–2009). In the fall of 2013 he will serve as lecturer at the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism.