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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice.

Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.


ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

1.

PARADIGM ISLANDS

Manhattan and Venice


For the multiplicity of dimensions of its urban being, Venice in the first half of the sixteenth
century was a sort of New York of its times. A great melting-pot city that experienced
within its urban context all the uncertainties and anxiety deriving from having reached the
peak of articulation of its quality of life.
(Giovanni Scarabello and Paolo Morachiello)1
The resistance that Venice opposes to the nineteenth century is a cipher of the irrelevance of
modernity. What Venice rejects is its own transformation into a city, . It rejects the dream
of reason in order to remain Gegnet. Physically as well, Venice opposes the city: as Gegnet, it is,
in fact, already metropolis, vast space where it is possible to acknowledge that things
themselves are places and do not only belong to a place.
(Francesco Dal Co)2
Manhattan and Venice are often associated in discourses on the city, across disciplines and
chronology. Unique, dense, vertical, influential, mythical, open: the attributes of the two cities blend
their bodies and their images in the association. This is what the city is: not just a set of physical,
economical, political, geographical and organizational relations, but also the irrational elements that
define its image and perception. The making of the physical city and the construction of its idea (or
myth) proceed in parallel. Architecture can thus be redefined as a spatial practice that affects the
physical environment but is also informed by the constructs of narrative, legislation, social mores,
and by the spatial investigations performed in the visual arts.
Manhattan and Venice constitute extreme situations, exceptions in which differences and
unexpected contaminations become explicit. For their particular physical and cultural conditions of
insularity, Manhattan and Venice, in different ways, rejected the architectural theories and praxis of
architectural modernism, and for their resistance and resilience they can suggest ideas and
operations for the contemporary city. Manhattan implemented its own version of modern
architecture, fast, profit oriented and pragmatic, and yet concerned with its image and mediatic
effects. Venice offered the most radical resistance to modernism, combining an image that had
frozen it for centuries in apparent slumber, with a praxis of continuous (re)making that makes it
today a fertile example even for cities that are culturally and geographically remote from it.
What connects the two cities at first sight, beyond their obvious physical condition of geographical
insularity, is the fact that they have both been or are, in their own times and specific situations, a
metropolis. Late-medieval and Renaissance Venice was a metropolis of its time: for its situation of
political and commercial independence, for the dimensional leap that made it active and influential
from the most strictly local situations to the global one, for the congestion of its space and the
multiplicity of its commerce and communications, and for the coexistence of opposite situations in
close proximity. While Scarabello and Morachiello limit their analogy of Venice and New York to
1

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

the past splendour of Renaissance Venice, Francesco Dal Cos observations open the analogy of the
two cities to the present being of the metropolis. In the sense of the ever-present suggested by Dal
Co (via Martin Heidegger), it is possible to establish a relationship between Manhattan and Venice.
Both cities are islands generating networks of relations that are much wider than their geographical
limits not only in the sense of a territorial dimension, but also in the sense of the transferability
and mobility of their paradigm.
Important and consolidated, Manhattan and Venice thrived in the past for their global commercial
relations, physical hubs of invisible world-wide networks of commerce and finance (and, today,
tourism), maintaining a privileged relationship with the world that was more important for their
survival than the (obviously necessary) contacts and exchanges with their immediate vicinities and
outskirts. Invisible cosmopolises (for their worldwide influence), Manhattan and Venice continue to
operate and thrive today in an international dimension, reinforcing at the same time their special
insular and urban condition of cultural discontinuity, which confers them a special status, in both
the imaginary and the history of the city. Invisibly connected but ideally isolated and visually
identifiable, we continue to call Manhattan and Venice cities, bringing into play the importance of
the spatial conditions and physical environment for a discourse that embraces and relates the two.
City
We can conceive of the city as a whole that exists only if it is in a perpetual state of change. Never
the same, this whole changes, and yet it allows us to identify it, recognize it, and name its. As it
changes, the whole reinforces our idea of it. Of it we can only produce partial and biased
representations, and for this reason we need many. As it changes, the whole never achieves wholeness (its completion), and continues to redefine itself through accretions, micro-trauma, new growth
and considerable mutations - expansion becomes relative, and almost secondary.
This whole difficult to grasp is what we still call, for lack of a better word, city. Perfectly apt and
fantastically adaptable, city indicates, together, a physical environment, its forms of inhabitations,
the human beings that make, inhabit, and mythicize it, and the complex networks of their
relationships, both permanent and volatile. City has evolved throughout history to continue to
adhere to its complex, never complete, and changing whole, now open and yet still always
identifiable.
Both Manhattan and Venice, two old cities that are now cores of vast metropolitan expansions,
continue to function while undergoing constant change. They both persist and change in their
permanence, and continue to occupy the urban imaginary while escaping attempts to fix their
definitive image. Established, widely known and fantasized, these cities continue to both produce
images of themselves and escape a single definition. Architecture its culture, its imaginary, its
projects and representations has addressed the two cities with theories and projects at crucial
moments of change. The resistance that Manhattan and Venice have often opposed to sudden
change, to ideas that had not matured from within their body and culture, has always posed
challenges to architecture, exposing its partiality as a discipline and revealing the established orders
and operations of the city that both precede and transcend architecture.
In different ways, Manhattans and Venices cultures of adjustments and transformation have
worked at different speeds through negotiations in time, succeeding thanks to rules of spatial
organization that are both clearly defined and flexible. The combination of definition and flexibility
2

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

has allowed the production of two cities that are apparently complete and yet always capable of
renewing themselves and their images. The image of the city, much more than a visual
representation, is understood here as a description of its physical, social, cultural and political ambit,
including also the myths, stories and figures that contribute to the definition of the citys imaginary
and to its very existence.
Space within
I suggest here that we do not need a new word for the city, as this is a perfectly apt name,
malleable and adaptable like the thing it sticks to. What is obsolete, having exhausted all their
possible variations and declensions, are the prefixes that have been attached, in time (in the last
century or so, and often retroactively), to the term polis, in relation to hierarchy, size, context and
fashion (metro, mega, cosmo, meta, etcetera). Polis comes to us from the series of independent but
strongly interconnected city-states of ancient Greece, and it often came to indicate the political and
social body of the city, more than its physical structure. The composite words that derive from it
continue to focus on systems of relations and networks that characterize and produce the body of
the city in different ways.
City is an elastic word, and a body that is both physical and relational. The city is characterized by
(and indeed exists because of) a system of relationships in a place (locus). The city is measured,
administered, and opened, rather than delimited. by its legislation, which, as flexible as its body,
includes and articulates differences. Not defined by a fixed form, or by a series of physical objects,
the city has internal and external boundaries, holes, and discontinuities, and these are both nonphysical and always subject to negotiation and redefinition. (Lets not forget Georges Batailles
impure, intestinal and cleansing laughter that reveals central insufficiency and weakens authority,
allowing its precarious character to be seen.)3
The city changes. Its form is successful in that it remains adaptable and flexible. The city is therefore
characterized by the rules and relations that determine it, rather than by a fixed physical body. Can
the city then be defined by a condition of interiority that has nothing to do with walls or affiliations,
but is rather determined by a densification of contacts? This is not sufficient though. The non-object
thing that the city is can only be if the contacts and relationships that determine it remain open to
the different that which originates elsewhere and operates according to different rules. Interiority
is redefined here as a relational space within. Con-tainment then has nothing to do with an
enclosure that defines a measurable physical space, and suggests instead the idea of a space that is
activated by and works through tension. Containment is thus returned to its etymological
instability of holding together (con-tenere), which is performed by the reciprocity of its agents rather
than by an external cohesive force. Dissociated from the notion of enclosure, the con-tainment of
the relational space of the city defines an interiority that remains exposed and open to change
(instigated from outside or generated from within). Transformed by and transformative of the
different, the city absorbs, assimilates, adapts and modifies itself, engaged in perpetual redefinition.
Because it is open to the different, it becomes different; because it becomes different, the different is
no more - and so on. Far from closed, defined, and protected, its interiority is always at risk challenged, reworked, softened, penetrated. The possibility of a space within implies at once
notions of inclusion, togetherness, and collaboration, but also openness, exposure and vulnerability.
Exposed, malleable and adaptable like its name, the city is also very fragile. Changes accumulate
and leave traces, build up an identity and slowly solidify in a nucleus, and yet this too remains
3

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

precariously balanced it can be broken. And yet the city remains recognizable in relation (or
reaction) to processes of dispersion and rarefaction.
The city is an interior of densification - of spaces, structures, bodies, ideas and exchanges - rich in
relationships that no longer require identification or belonging. It is the site of the concentration of
experiences and the intertwining of times, of possibilities and contaminations that are impossible
else-where: the relational system that makes the city needs to be situated. Site and where: beyond
everything and after everything, the city remains, inevitably, spatially connoted. It is not only a
physical space, but it is also a physical space: the relational system that makes the city needs to be
situated.
In established and consolidated physical contexts - such as Manhattan and Venice which I consider
here - within the superimposition and emergence of the different orders and structures that exist in
them, within the making-undoing-remaking of their elements, in their complex spatio-temporal
palimpsests, some constants emerge, revealing a programmed identity constructed according to a
deliberate project, but also a non-programmed identity, equally strong and often produced or
enabled by the same project. What I propose here is the idea of a city that is strong and continues to
work because it not only undergoes change, but empowers change, always already containing it in
its project. Fragile, open, free, the city constructs a strong and layered image that is able to
incorporate change within itself. The core of such image, if it exists, is the product of gradual
constructions, of condensations and accumulations of spaces, images, significations and identities.
Not a starting point or generative centre, this core results from the accumulation of the many.
Far from being a centralized and structured system, the interiority of the city (the city as space
within) works as an accumulation of densities. Accumulation does not have a generative centre,
nor is it an interior delimited by an enclosure, or defined by an external condition that delimits it
from the outside and organizes it from within. Always already plural, the citys within is at work in
the peripheries as much as it is in the centres, its agents of change not always identifiable a priori.
Accumulation is generated by centripetal forces that produce accumulations of densities (of
phenomena, matter, people, events), without acknowledging a prevailing centre. Accumulation
(cumulus) works in an additive manner, without a rigid hierarchy and symmetrical growth structured
around a centre. Repeating, reproducing, multiplying and shifting its centres, it allows the possibility
of multiple and different temporary orders, as well as their infinite intermediate states, potentially
generative of variations and different developments.
Accumulation is non-centric but dense. The multiple collisions, overlaps and attritus that constitute
it (rather than form it) produce an excess of energy, of density, of effects that is capable to
further redefine and modify the already heterogeneous and precarious given situation.
Accumulation produces forms, but its concern is not form rather, density, proximity,
heterogeneity; nor is it transparency, total control and visibility. While it is measured, regulated and
administered, the city thrives in the blind spots of decontrol and in its margins of freedom, the
grounds of its change.
The interiority of the city is defined by the tension that con-tains (holds together) its elements,
materials and relations. As accumulation, it does not have an inside or an outside; its interiority is
relational, in the sense of an active reciprocity that occurs with (between, among) and in (inside).
The accumulation is inclusive - it accepts, absorbs, adapts and incorporates. It overlaps and
4

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

interpenetrates different orders and systems; it combines doing and undoing. It may need to be
amnesiac in order to function or just survive, but it exists in time, and has an unsettled past that can
be reactivated at any point and moment, threatening present orders and formations. Objects and
singularities here make sense only in relation. The distinction of and inside (interior) as opposed to
an outside (exterior) no longer makes sense, as everything here is both outside and inside, and
implicated in a relational space (within). The city thus defined is not identified by limits or
enclosures, but a space-time of condensation: events, decisions and interventions on its physical
space produce an accumulation and coexistence of different phenomena, spaces and times that are
often conflicting. The conflict does not deflagrate the city in a process of self-annihilation, nor does
it resolve into the prevailing of an order over the others, but remains both suspended and expressed
- it both fosters and restrains change. This is the city of the within an interiority defined by the
tension that con-tains (holds together) its elements, materials and relations.
The city of the within offers an alternative to the spatial dispersal and rarefaction of the
contemporary city, suggesting that the condition of interiority (what I have called space within) is
necessary to instigate the abundance of relations that define the city. While the idea of city can no
longer be linked to a sense of belonging by an individual or a group, while community is no longer
necessarily linked to a physical location with which it identifies, the city can be redefined as the site
(in the territory, the metropolis, the cosmopolitan conurbation) in which experiences are
concentrated, different times coexist and overlap, possibilities are multiplied, and contaminations
occur that are impossible elsewhere. Administered, defined, named, constructed but not sealed, the
city is the space of freedom. What emerges here is the idea of a city that (like the polis and the civitas,
but redefined in its rules and forms to accommodate todays lifestyles) is not only physical, but is
largely defined by the way in which its physical spaces are regulated, lived and perceived, but also
imagined and projected. Imagination as projection is intended here not only as an ex post production
of image (representation) and interpretation of a physical datum, but also as a form of anticipation
and pre-figuration - as a project and projection.
My attempt to define and represent the city of the space within as a dynamic non-linear and noncausal complexity derives from a series of ideas on space proposed by some of the thinkers I refer to
in this study from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattaris idea of smooth and striated space, to
Manfredo Tafuris identification of the intricate bundles of ideologies and their spatial agency, to
the relativity of the mollusc space that Massimo Cacciari borrows from Albert Einsteins physics.
These theories of space, architecture and the city, in part incompatible, in part complementary, are
brought together here to offer different ways to understand the conflicts and contradictions that
produce and inhabit the city.
In Mille Plateaux (1980) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari propose the figure of the rhizome to
describe phenomena of non-linear complexity that allow for returns, are multiverse, non causal, and
non binary. Deleuzes the definition of smooth and striated spaces where striation characterizes
the systematic ordering processes that define the city is contextual with the impossibility of the
pure separate existences of the two, and the city is in fact identified as the ideal site for the
contention and combination of smooth and striated space. 4 More cautious in untangling
historical developments, Manfredo Tafuri proposes a method for architectural history (the project)
that unravels the complexity of the political, religious and ideological motivations affecting the
production of architecture and the city. Tafuri writes of bundles that the historian is to untangle, in
5

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

order to identify the specificity and the linearity of each of the forces of environmental formation,
as well as the complex intricacies of their influences.5 Concentrating his discourse on the dynamics
of the urban space, Massimo Cacciari borrows from Albert Einsteins theory of relativity the idea of
mollusc space to propose a reading of orthogonal space beyond form and figuration. The mollusc
city is a dynamic system in which the variations of density, forms and times, erase the distinction
between space and objects, redefining them in a mobile system of multiple and simultaneous
chronology. 6
These are some of the triggers that provoked my reconsiderations of the city beyond its form and in
terms of its space-making operations and its rationalities. In this framework the city and its
processes are intellectually understood not only by reference to the urban cultural context, but also
by drawing categories from other disciplines. This open reading is focused on architectures histories
and theories, but it intersects also art theory and practices, land surveying, cartography, philosophy
and urban studies. Architectural manifesto, architectural history as a project, grids and grid
effects, different mappings, rectilinear and meandering spaces, and the associative processes of
capriccio, montage, and tenderness, are some of the processes that inform the making of the city
beyond the appearance of its form, and are proposed here as unorthodox analytic devices to
understand the urban complexity.
Island
The idea of the city as a space within alludes to a space that is not delimited by physical
boundaries, and yet remains defined and recognizable; a space that, varying in scale, time and
degree of openness/enclosure, is both perceived and inhabited as an ambit in a non-homogenous
space.7 Spatio-temporal and relational, the city can be redefined as an island, if we consider the
island in relation to the nature of its edges rather than to the condition of physical delimitation and
finished-ness. Island is conventionally defined from the outside as a delimited field of physical
discontinuity, externally rather that internally determined. At the same time the island increments
concentrations and density; it more clearly manifests processes of centripetal convergence; it
tolerates, or even imposes, proximity and coexistence. In fact, because it is delimited, the island can
be reconsidered as a field subject to incremental saturation, to the point where an endless interiority
could be hypothesized.
Even at the edge, the island is only apparently clear. Its edge is a mutable space that constantly
negotiates relationships. The island is not determined by an opposition of solid/defined and
liquid/variable, but by the co-existence of the two. At once space and edge, the island is an unstable
figure, with a mobile and constantly redefined edge. Its threshold is a space that embraces change
and the construction of different identities in time. Far from ideal (Plato) or utopian (Thomas More)
scenarios of philosophical, political and legislative (and physical) delimitation, the island thus
redefined is not only a system of relations, but it is also in relation, and as such open to the plural.
The plurality and differences that characterize the island within, affect also its edge, exposed and
open as it is to a different that operates elsewhere and according to different rules. The idea of
islands - in the plural - suggests systems of relations across physical discontinuities and temporal
distances, with a different that is not incorporated but remains active in reciprocal attraction and
complementariness. Island, as one of many, is an accumulation that holds together (con-tains)
mutable and heterogeneous fragments and different times. Space within, accumulation, and
island, the city is a phenomenon of both spatial and temporal condensation. Its vitality and
richness lie in the presence, the complexity and the multiplicity of both.
6

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

The city as island becomes instrumentally useful to question conditions of spatial delimitation and
physical finitude in the city, in relation to openness and to networked remote relations. To think by
islands means to perform samplings of territories that are pre-defined and limited by physical
conditions (natural and artificial) which increment concentrations, tolerating or imposing proximity
and coexistence. For its given condition of physical discontinuity, the island provides a delimited
field for the measuring of phenomena and their intensity, and a testing ground for different ways of
probing the city and working on it. The island, physical or of the mind, becomes a laboratory for
projects and thoughts on the city, for readings of its space, and indeed for architectural and urban
analysis and design projects.
Island is, also, a temporal island, a space in which it is possible to distinguish times that are
spatially located. This study uses the idea of time island to explore ambits where the coexistence of
different times in the same space (physical or mental) allows the existence of elements apparently
incompatible, suspended in a not yet unfolded conflict, in a tension that is continuously balanced
and redefined. To work by time islands means to define spatio-temporal ambits, that is, crucial
times of specific spaces: those which reveal and express the peak of tension that immediately
precedes breakings and crucial shifts. To work by time islands means also to understand the
reasons that induce to seek elsewhere to find the motivations, the causes, the influences, and the
origins of changes and shifts in progress.
What I have called here the city of the space within are the outcomes of these spatio-temporal
accumulations, the physical or bodily effects of these specific condensations of phenomena. The
richness and vitality of these spaces resides in the complexity and multiplicity that they carry
within, in their not yet unfolded potentialities, in the possible developments not yet achieved.
These spaces (and times) become paradigmatic situations for this series of essays. The paradigmatic
spaces of Manhattan and Venice are considered here as dynamic knots that cannot be untangled:
undoing them would mean to flatten their complexities and try to simplify that which is irreducible.
This work attempts to read inside and between these knots, in order to reveal their dynamic nature
of elements in constant mutation, albeit with different manners and languages.
Paradigms
One hundred profound solitudes form the whole of the city of Venice this is its spell. An
image for the man of the future.
(Friedrich Nietzsche)8
The knowability of the paradigm is never presupposed, and its specific operation consists in
suspending and deactivating its empirical givenness in order to exhibit only an intelligibility.
(Giorgio Agamben)9
Spaces within, accumulations, and islands, Manhattan and Venice are considered here not as
models (they are indeed unique products of unique circumstances), but as paradigms of the making
of the city that remain effective and continue to operate today, beyond historical categorizations,
and beyond the differences between a modern and a mediaeval city that often blind urban history.
Paradigm, from the Greek term paradigma, example, exemplar, contains the verbal root paradeiknynai, to show, to compare, and is an action word. Relational, deiknynai, to show, to indicate,
7

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

establishes a three way relation between a subject who shows or indicates, a subject who is shown to,
and an object (or model) that is shown. In this relation though the object is active too, important not
for how it looks, or sounds, but for the way in which it has been achieved; it is also active because it
continues to make and change itself. The comparative para- further complicates and activates the
relation, as it indicates the possible continuation of a regulated action, but also the distancing from
it, and the production of a difference or a shift. The paradigm, in other words, is not an object. It
indicates a modus operandi, rather than a result to achieve or a requirement to fulfil. Dynamic, the
paradigm is an action; it contains within itself the possibility of variation and movement, it indicates
oscillation and multiplicity rather than fixity and one-ness.10
Manhattan, place of total artificiality defined by an orthogonal layout that is volumetrically
extruded, is a city that rebuilds itself by self-destruction, thanks to the possible transmigration of
movable traces within its artificial grid. Venice, place of paratactic (dis)continuity that is built
gradually, island by island, in the mobile territory of its lagoon, is a city that rebuilds its body on its
own physical traces, reusing itself. Here I propose the modern capitalist orthogonality of
Manhattan and the medieval cosmopolitan curved space of Venice as paradigms for the
contemporary city. Their clear physical-geographical delimitation as islands helps to define the
spatial and cultural ambits of this study. It also supports the redefinition of the island as a field
whose apparently clear boundaries are instead complicated by multiple variations and
contaminations.
Manhattan and Venice are thus read as urban phenomena that are indeed geographical islands, but
extend their manifestations beyond their physical boundaries, transferring operations and producing
effects in other places and times. Paradigm islands, they are the places where particular processes
of growth and space making are defined, derived from the specific local conditions. Their processes
are also manifest elsewhere, in diluted or less easily identifiable forms, and they are reproduced
today in the re-densification of metropolitan cities (for instance, through processes of grid infill and
paratactic densification).
A critical re-examination of the makings of Manhattan and Venice as paradigmatic opens the
possibility for a reconsideration of their modus operandi to address contemporary forms of making in
the architecture of the city. A study of the two cities as the enactment of performative paradigms
provides a background to develop conceptual tools to address the dynamic making of space today.
The gradual processes of adjustment, the making of a constantly changing dense space, the
emphasis on making and forming rather than on figure, the incorporation of new forms and
languages through their adaptation and transformation, make both Manhattan and Venice, in
different ways, the ideal places to contextualize and address the issue of an architecture of the
dynamic.
Nietzsches reading of Venice as an anticipation of the condition of isolation of the contemporary
city extracts Venice from Venice. His fragment presents a city divested of its cohesive social
dimension and of the connective tissue of its physical body. Reduced to islands of solitudes, Venice
is taken away from itself and projected onto the contemporary metropolis. Let us suppose here that
the contemporary condition of isolation offered by this image could be that of the densely packed
but separated islands-blocks laid out by the grid of Manhattan. Simplified, reduced, and removed
from its original nature (collective and cohesive), Venice is turned into a paradigm for the
metropolis. The possible proximity of the two cities is not causal (there is not a direct cause-effect
8

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

relation between Venice and Manhattan). The operation here is rather that of an intellectual
association. Venice offers an image for the city of the future (which I suggest might be Manhattan),
even if in fact Nietzsche does not relate Venice to any other city, but makes of it a metropolitan
condition. Once the connective tissue of Venice is dissolved, and its solitudes are isolated, Venice
becomes a condition, and can only relate to a future man that is both individual and universal, but
not social. The intellectual operation that produces this image works by first defining a distance of
the object from itself (it re-moves the object from its singularity), to then return it to another
singularity. This is the operation of the paradigm, activated by the distancing performed by its
prefix para. It is as a paradigm that Venice can relate to Manhattan.
Another operation that we need to perform to enable this relationship is a distancing from acquired
historical, morphological, and typological preconceptions and classifications of the city that are well
known in architecture and urbanism. The paradigm as an operation is what makes it possible to
perform the association, and to relate an abstracted Venice - simplified of its complex connections
and reduced to separate islands - to Manhattan. Here the production of a proximity is not a
question of forms, styles, histories or intents, but lies in a series of operations that define the space of
the two cities. As in Nietzsches fragment, the construction of a new or unexpected proximity
between these two singularities must first occur trough a distancing of the object from itself. The
figure of the island both suggests and begins the paradigmatic operation, with its defined
boundary of isolation (edge, limit) and its (sea of) connectivity. The island is never an island in itself:
separation and relation always define it. Nietzsches remark contains, somehow, an anticipation of
the space that we intend to construct here, and its method: a suggestion of plurality, the isolation of
an element, and the simplification and abstraction of such element, in order to construct relations
that allow the transfer/translation of ideas.
The paradigmatic operation needs to be further explored. In the essay What is a Paradigm?,11
philosopher Giorgio Agamben has provided a comprehensive and operational reconsideration of
the paradigm in the history of Western philosophical and scientific thought, and the definition of
paradigm that emerges can offer an insight to better explain the method and the scope of this work.
Agambens fundamental starting point is the notion of scientific paradigms developed by
epistemologist Thomas S. Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.12 Of the different
definitions of paradigm that Kuhn proposes, the one that Agamben considers most novel in a
productive way is the concept of paradigm as example, a single case that by its repeatability
acquires the capacity to model tacitly the behaviour and research practices of scientists.13 For
Agamben this is an important shift in the reconsideration of the paradigm as productive of
knowledge. Here the paradigm replaces the rule as the canon of scientificity, and the universal logic
of the law is replaced by the specific and singular logic of the example.14 Agamben explores the
use and the signification of the paradigm in the work of several thinkers, in order to produce his
own definition of what the paradigm does in the production of knowledge, not only in science but
also in philosophical thinking. A brief analysis of Foucaults problematic and implicit use of the
paradigm allows him to elaborate on the distancing process that occurs in the paradigm - something
close to what we have proposed here: the paradigm is a singular case that is isolated from its
context only insofar as, by exhibiting its own singularity, it makes intelligible a new ensemble, whose
homogeneity it itself constitutes. 15 The isolation, decontextualization and definition of the
singularity of the example-object are part of the paradigmatic operation. The paradigm as a cultural
operation works toward the production of a non-dialectical form of knowledge, but this knowledge
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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

does not aim to achieve the universal and to derive principles (rules) from it. Agamben traces back
the origin of this concept of paradigm to a passage of Aristotles Prior Analytics, in which Aristotle
obsrves that the paradigm does not function as a part with respect to the whole, nor as a whole with
respect to the part, but as a part with respect to the part, if both are under the same but one is better
known than the other.16 From this Agamben derives that
while induction proceeds from the particular to the universal, and deduction from the
universal to the particular, the paradigm is defined by a third and paradoxical type of
movement, which goes from the particular to the particular. The example constitutes a
peculiar form of knowledge that does not proceed by articulating together the universal and
the particular, but seems to dwell on the plane of the latter.17
The paradigm as particularity challenges the form of knowledge that proceeds through oppositions
between the particular and the universal. A singularity irreducible to any of the dichotomys two
terms, the paradigm does not operate in the domain of logic, but in analogy, and the analogon it
generates is neither particular nor general. 18 Agamben explains, analogy intervenes in the
dichotomies of logic not to take them up into a higher synthesis but to transform them into a
force field traversed by polar tensions, where (as in an electromagnetic field) their substantial
identities evaporate.19
There are in this redefinition of the paradigm a few important points that are relevant to the
concept of paradigm island and its use in this work. The isolation, decontextualization and
definition of the singularity of the object-example are not sufficient to activate it as a paradigm. The
fundamental step for the activation of the paradigm is the exit of the object from itself. The
paradigm in a way is not the object, but the cultural construction that is produced around the
object, the movement of oscillation that does not follow a defined direction, but sets in motion and
in tension (it electrifies, it polarizes) the object itself. The paradigm is then both the definition and
the activation of the object with and in its force field it indeed is this very force field. The
paradigm as
analogical third is attested here above all through the disidentification and neutralization of
the first two, which now become indiscernible. It is thus impossible to clearly separate an
examples paradigmatic character its standing for all cases from the fact that it is one case
among others. As in a magnetic field, we are dealing not with extensive and scalable
magnitude but with vectorial intensities.20
(Giorgio Agamben)
The paradigms that I discuss here are not only the two objects of this investigation, but also the very
placing of the two in relation. The paradigm that I attempt to define is the relational space between
Manhattan and Venice, as established in architecture and by its operations in the two cities, across
them, and abstracting from them. The paradigm island then is not a physical island of oppositions
between solid and liquid, defined and undefined, but a relational possibility to redefine a nonprescriptive non-dogmatic form of knowledge on the city - as a paradigm actually presupposes the
impossibility of the rule [and] implies the total abandonment of the particular-general couple as
the model of logical inference.21 What is relevant to this study is the redefinition of movement as
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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

tension between that is embedded in the paradigmatic relation, and activates it as a form of
knowledge that opens connections that are not aimed at producing a general rule. Agamben
observes that the relational aspect of the paradigm is already present in the definition proposed by
Plato, for whom the paradigm is not a simple sensible element that is present in two different
places, but something like a relation between the sensible and the mental, the element and the form
(the paradigmatic element is itself a relationship). 22 In Plato, the paradigm is not a given object
or a pre-existing likeness, but it is produced by placing alongside, conjoining together, and
above all by showing and exposing. The paradigmatic relation does not merely occur between
sensible objects or between these objects and a general rule; it occurs instead between a singularity
(which thus become a paradigm) and its exposition (its intelligibility).23
The purpose of this work is to produce a paradigmatic relation between Manhattan and Venice,
through an exploration of their architectural discourses, projects and representations.
Discourses in architecture
The rules of operation of Manhattan and Venice, physical (the solidity of the schist island or the
muddy movements of the lagoon), abstract (the Manhattan grid plan or the Venetian sumptuary
laws), or socio-economic (speculative capitalism or aristocratic republic), incorporate in their
architecture the complexity of forces that concur in the definition of the citys form. In both cities,
the rules of making space and their flexibility allow for an adaptation in which the process of making
and its structure prevail over form. It is this character that, in both cities, has faced the modernist
architectural project with a dilemma, its rigid categories incapable of comprehending a making of
space that escapes their control. To these cities return the critical architectural projects of the 1970s
(by Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman, Gianugo Polesello) to overcome the modern
legacy and to re-address architecture as a process, in a way that then affects the contemporary
project.
While the history of the discipline was questioned or rejected by the early stages of architectural
modernism, today the past of the discipline is dismissed or altogether ignored by the contemporary
architectural avant-gardes. Architecture looks outside, intent on opening its operative boundaries,
but the unanswered question remains of what the specificity of architecture is today, once it
becomes inextricably enmeshed with other forces of environmental formation and different
specialisms. The association of Manhattan and Venice that this book investigates proposes a
reconsideration of architecture as a process that operates according to rules that are both flexible
and generative (paradigms). The makings of the two cities - the cannibalistic reconstruction of
Manhattan, the intestinal adaptations of Venice - remain active today and become propositional for
current architectural research.
A consideration of the city as a work of architecture takes also into account the by now accepted but
still problematic overcoming of the isolated architectural object. The making of the city is not a
solid architectural project (or masterplan), but an extended spatio-temporal operative set of
instructions that include its material making. This book shows how pre-formal diagrammatic
operations of space making were at work in architectural experimentation well before their recent
theorizations, and how such operations were defined through material conditions and
implementations: in the anti-classical of Venice, in the anti-modern of Manhattan, in the decompositions of the post-modern, but also and very significantly - embedded in the operative
rationalities and abstractions of modern architecture. In this sense Manhattan and Venice can be
read as paradigms of a making of space that still affects the city today.
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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

This work is not a history of Manhattan and Venice, and, rather than focusing on their images and
architectural objects, it concentrates on their practices of space making and the representations
and narrations of these. The modern metropolis of the orthogonal grid is intersected here with the
pre-modern cosmopolis of the liquid meander, to explore the rules of their operations, their
interpretation, their rules and transgressions. The book is therefore constructed like an architectural
project: specific on its sites, it addresses more general issues of the relationship between architecture
and the city that were originated from or developed in Manhattan and Venice, but whose
implications and further elaborations remain open to research, speculation and invention elsewhere.
The readings that follow here are partial and orientated. Chronologically discontinuous and
organized in spatio-temporal fragments, the chapters trace a map of the moments of crisis and
change in the relation between architecture and the city. Manhattan and Venice provide the
territories where this mapping is performed, as it identifies possible points of contact, complications,
and closeness. The study though refrains from direct confrontations or comparisons, nor does it seek
ungrounded parallelisms or fabricated correspondences.
Chapter two, Frames, defines Manhattan and Venice through the construction of their
architectural narratives, focusing on specific historical moments that were marked by the impact of
the new in the two cities. Rem Koolhaas study of nineteenth and early twentieth century
Manhattan and instrumental retroactive manifesto for the city, 24 and Manfredo Tafuris
application of his historical project25 on the many faces of Renaissance Venice offer the conceptual
and chronological frame for an understanding of the processes of space making and myth
fabrication in the two cities. Both authors study the city as a work in progress of self-construction
and self-definition, and as the testing ground for ideas and processes that are readied here in
Manhattan, or in Venice - to migrate elsewhere. My analysis of their works focuses on both the
contents and the spatial structure of the texts in relation to their objects; it proposes a making and
reading of the text in architecture as a project, and advocates the idea of plurality as a possible
development of delirium and of the historical project in architecture.
Chapter three, Makings, analyzes the structure and the process of making of the two cities and
their possible relations. The joint analysis of Manhattan and Venice produces a reconsideration of
the urban and territorial systems of order at work in the city, before, after and beyond the debacle
of the modernist tabula rasa. The Grid of the 1811 Plan is the rational tool for Manhattans project.
Its forms operate between rule and figure, between representation and performance, constructing
an outer order that is at the same time replicated and transgressed in the interiors of the
Manhattans blocks, and is literally carpeted over by Central Park. Venice operates according to
other rationalities, combining a plurality of orders in its making, from topography to topology (the
tentacular structure of the lagoon islands), to the inclusion of elements of orthogonal rationality
(Roman palimpsests and spine-and-mat morphology), to the curvilinear assemblage along the
Grand Canal. The joint consideration of these two different ways of city making produces a reconceptualization of the grid as a grid effect that is still at work in contemporary architecture.
Chapter four, Readings, proposes alternative unorthodox categories to read the space of the city
and interpret the role of architecture in it. It argues that Manhattans normative homogeneity
becomes the ground for an architecture of exhibitionism that offers slogans and strategies rather
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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

than fixed forms. Similarly, in Venice, the normative prescription of a collective behaviour regulates
the buildings structures more than it does their final image: chorality here is a constitutive concordia
discors that holds together in tension different elements and different styles, absorbing or
marginalizing the new for the construction of a cohesive city body.
Chapter five, Modern(s) examines Le Corbusiers different ways (hence the suggested plural) to
come to terms with Manhattan and Venice in his studies and architectural proposals, and the
impossibility of the modern project to assimilate the established spaces and rationalities of both
cities. Le Corbusier claims that Venice is a guiding temoin in his project for a new architecture of the
city,26 but, while he explores its functional details and produces of it partial representations, Venice
remains for him an impenetrable and inexplicable whole. Manhattan equally defies European
modernist comprehension with the saturated vertical density of its beautiful catastrophe (Le
Corbusier).27 In both cities the modern project is fragmented or reduced to silence, ineffectual in
applying its categories, and incapable to produce a tabula rasa in territories that are already too dense
with built histories and fabricated stories.
Chaper six, Contemporaries, shows how in the 1970s (and later) architectural research returned to
these two impossible cities, in the attempt to redefine its languages and techniques after the
modern project. In Manhattan, Bernard Tschumi transcribed and exploded the city through a
series of choreographed architectural events. In Venice, Peter Eisenman returned his formal
architectural experimentations to the city, to read it as a topological diagram in the making, while
Gianugo Polesello reinvented the modern project by reducing the composition of its fragments to a
generative diagram for a new urban architecture. It is there and then that crucial issues and design
strategies for architecture in the city where devised that still inform the contemporary project.
Chapter seven, Representations, considers spatial practices that have produced alternative ways of
representing and understanding the structures of Manhattan and Venice, often offering suggestions
or raising issues for architecture. It is through these other eyes that architecture learns to question
itself and renew the understanding of its operations. It is by looking outside architecture that the
notions of vertical, horizontal, round and labyrinthine can be redefined and reintroduced in a
discourse on the city and architecture. In Manhattan, the vertical, the horizontal, and the round
offer different interpretations of the urban space, in photography (Horst Hamman, Wiliam Hassler),
video art (Steve McQueen), and performance art (Sophie Calle). From measuring the Grids voids
as ambits of non-control to domesticating its exterior spaces, these works offer alternative readings
of the Grid. In Venice, the labyrinthine, the vertical, the horizontal show how one of the most
portrayed and photographed places in the world always exceeds its representations, in fact throwing
into crisis the visual with its dynamic elastic body. The city is in fact better rendered by haptic and
vicarious experiences (Sophie Calle), or by images that question its verticality and density (Dionisio
Moretti , Claus Carstensen,).
The epilogue, Islands, returns to a re-conceptualization of the island, via Massimo Cacciaris
relativistic reading of the Manhattan Grid as a dynamic elastic whole, and Gianugo Polesellos
challenge of the limits of Euclidean geometry with a project for a new island in Venice.

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Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice. Discourses on Architecture and the City, Abingon, Oxford: Routledge.
ISBN 978 0 415 56185 3. Chapter 1: Paradigm Islands. Manhattan and Venice. ***manuscript version***

La Venezia della prima met del Cinquecento, per quel che riguardava la molteplicit delle dimensioni del suo essere
urbano, era una specie di New York dellepoca. ... Una grande citt-crogiolo che viveva nel proprio contesto urbano le
incertezze e le inquietudini di un culmine raggiunto nella propria vicenda di articolazione della qualit della vita. G.
Scarabello and P. Morachiello, Guida alla civilt di Venezia, Milan: Mondadori, 1987, p. 53. Authors translation.
2 Ma proprio la resistenza che Venezia oppone all 800 cifra dellirrilevanza del moderno. Ci che Venezia respinge
di quel secolo fiducioso la propria trasformazione in citt, . Essa respinge il sogno della ragione per rimanere Gegnet.
Anche fisicamente Venezia si oppone alla citt: come Gegnet, in realt, gi metropoli, spazio vasto ove possibile
riconoscere che le cose stesse sono i luoghi e non solo appartengono a un luogo. F. Dal Co, Venezia e il moderno,
in F. Dal Co (ed.), 10 immagini per Venezia, Rome: Officina, 1980, p. 10. The quote is from M. Heidegger, Larte e lo spazio,
Genoa: Il Melangolo, 1979, p. 23. Authors translation.
3 Laughter is not only the composition of those it assembles into a unique convulsion; it most often decomposes without
consequence, and sometimes with a virulence that is so pernicious that it even puts in question composition itself, and
the wholes across which it functions. G. Bataille, The Labyrinth (1935-6), in Visions of Excess. Selected writings 1927-1939,
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985, p. 176.
4 G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1980), London and New York: Continuum, 2004. In particular, see
Introduction: rhizome, pp. 3-25 and 1440: The smooth and the striated, pp. 474-500.
5 M. Tafuri, Introduction: The historical project, in The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant-gardes and architecture from Piranesi
to the 1970s, Cambridge MA and London: MIT Press, 1990, pp. 1-21.
6 M. Cacciari, Metropoli della mente, Casabella, 523:50, April 1986, 14-15.
7 Ambit and non-homogenous space are terms used in phenomenology, and in particular in G. Bachelard, The poetics
of space (1957), Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.
8 F. Nietzsche, Aurora, in Opere, (G. Colli and M. Montinari, eds.), vol. 5, book 1, Milan: Adelphi, 1965, p. 296.
9 G. Agamben, What is a paradigm?, in The Signature of All Things, New York: Zone Books, 2009, p. 26.
10 My Italian dictionary indirectly confirms my take on the word, telling me that in the philosophy of science paradigm
indicates a coherent and articulated group of theories, methods and procedures that predominantly characterize a
phase of the evolution of a certain science. (Un insieme coerente e articolato di teorie, metodi e procedimenti che
contraddistinguono in modo predominante una fase dellevoluzione di una determinata scienza. N. Zingarelli,
Vocabolario della Lingua Italiana, (M. Dogliotti and L. Rosiello, eds.), Bologna: Zanichelli, 2000. Authors translation). The
paradigm thus is not only heterogeneous including theories, methods and procedures - but it is also dynamic and
subject to change a phase of the evolution.
11 Agamben, What is a paradigm?.
12 T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.
13 Agamben, What is a paradigm?, p. 11.
14 Ibid., pp. 11-12.
15 Ibid., p. 18.
16 Aristotle, Prior Analytics, 69a13-15. Quoted in Agamben, What is a paradigm?, p. 19.
17 Agamben, What is a paradigm?, p. 19.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid., p. 20.
20 Ibid., p. 20.
21 Ibid., p. 21.
22 Ibid., p. 23. Agamben refers to and quotes from Victor Goldschmidts study of the paradigm in Platonic dialectics, V.
Goldschmidt, Le paradigme dans la dialectique platonicienne, Paris: Vrin, 1985, p. 77.
23 Agamben here translates and paraphrases from Plato, The Statesman, 278b-c.
24 R. Koolhaas, Delirious New York. A retroactive manifesto for Manhattan (1978), New York: Monacelli Press, 1994.
25 In particular: A. Foscari and M. Tafuri and, Larmonia e i conflitti, Turin: Einaudi, 1983. M. Tafuri, Venezia e il
Rinascimento, Turin: Einaudi, 1985; Venice and the Renaissance, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989. M. Tafuri, Ricerca del
Rinascimento. Prncipi, citt, architetti, Turin: Einaudi, 1992; Interpreting the Renaissance. Princes, cities, architects, New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2006.
26 I call upon Venice as a witness, Le Corbusier, The Radiant City: elements of a doctrine of urbanism to be used as the basis of our
machine-age civilization (1935), London: Faber, 1967, p. 268.
27 New York is a vertical city, under the sign of the new times. It is a catastrophe though a beautiful and worthy
catastrophe. Le Corbusier, When the Cathedrals Were White (1947), New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964, p. 36.
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