Starting with the problem of the urban block in the transition from the historic city to the modern city, and especially the role it has had in reconstructing the contemporary city, research has focused on the question of the opening of the urban block, profiting from a scientific approach borrowed from typomorphology studies. My research hypothesis is that the proneness of the urban block to ‘open up’ characterizes not only of the contemporary world but also the history of the ancient and modern city. The first topic of my hypothesis considers the open block (îlot ouvert) as an episodic but recurrent trait of western cities, and investigates traces of open urban block configuration in certain premodern and modern instances. The second topic analyzes the permanence of the îlot ouvert in the work and urban theory of Christian de Portzamparc through a critical analysis of a series of case projects of varying scale spanning a 40-year period. My conclusions shed light on how, in the history of cities, it has manifested itself in varied, changeful fashion yet following certain fixed principles, and how, in taking on the role of a social space, which in the old city was absolved by the street, it has become a mechanism of recurrent spatial configuration in contemporary urban design
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