Currently we see a schism between the everyday life of inhabitants of cities and the tourists that come to experience the city. Architecturally significant buildings become places for tourists to visit, spend money, and leave. The contemporary city is an amusement park. The rest of the city operates as merely a backdrop of restaurants, hotels and, mechanical systems, essentially back of house contributing to the tourist experience. The majority of people in the city, the long term residents, rarely come in contact with great architecture. Apartments, shops, places of work, gas stations, bathrooms highly trafficked places usually are completely lacking in architectural thinking and sophistication.

We want to create a new society where every place is architecturally significant. This city would abolish the concept of tourism as we currently understand it. The role of architecture for the inhabitant and tourist would be equalized, fixing the rift between the mundane life of citizens and the short-lived experience offered from tourism. Chambord becomes the perfect site for our new society. In 1685 Louis XV abandoned the chateau, concentrating his efforts on constructing the Palace of Versailles. We wonder what would have become of Chambord if Louis had decided to stay and develop the chateau with the same vision. 300 years later we can reexamine what that would mean, building our utopia on the unfinished project of Chambord. We look to Piranesi’s Campo Marzio as an ideal reference for this. Piranesi reimagines Rome as a city of pure architecture. Moving away from Noli’s figure ground diagram, where the architecture is carved from the urban fabric, Piranesi creates a plan of Rome as a figure figure diagram where there is only architecture and nothing else. Peter Eisenman in 2012 was in charge of an exhibition titled “Piranesi Variations” tagged as a re-understanding of the Campo Marzio. When talking about the Campo Marzio he says, “This was an imposition by Piranesi to change the social structure of Rome. The form of this project invents a new social structure not the reverse, the typical would be, “Let’s take the social structure and give it form” Instead, let’s give it form and find the social structure that evolves out of it.” Through design and architecture, the society will be formed. Without the economic and bureaucratic regulations in place currently producing city organizations and building form, our city can build first without a prescribed program. Everywhere becomes a significant part of the city to live and experience, no rich and poor areas, no districts. Far away from the strict regulations of the contemporary city, Chambord’s abundant land and unfinished chateau become the initial building blocks for the new city.


We’ve always understood the chateau as a building in three parts. A large plinth functioning as the main portion of the castle. On top of this extrusion sits a new ground with a pitched roofscape. This new ground is then populated by a series of towers creating a half-built city on top of the chateau. This organization along with the unfinished nature of the project is highly reminiscent of early 19th century Manhattan. A partially built city on a defined strip of land becomes organized by economic interests and is gridded for future expansion. Instead of the grid, our city will use the figure figure model of Piranesi as our organizational principle. We know the Campo Marzio was an assemblage of Roman ruins and landmarks that Piranesi used to reimagine Rome. In this vein we understand the history of Utopias as a ground for ruins and landmarks that can be reconstructed and reinterpreted. Without the landscape of Rome to work with as Piranesi had, we must create our own foundation for this city. As the extrusion of the chateau separates the known world from the city above, 500 years of utopian forms and organizations are layered to create the landscape for our figure figure utopia. This same index, along with the towers currently existing on the roof of the chateau, become a perfect starting point for the formal development of the city. Koolhaas in Delirious New York perfectly describes the way we see the chateau roof. When discussing Luna Park, an amusement park in Coney Island boasting an incredible skyline of 1,200 towers, Koolhass says, “[The towers] create an architectural spectacle out of the drama of their frenzied scramble for individuality and to identify this battle of the spires as the definitive sign of otherworldliness, the mark of another condition. The forest of towers, instead of Coney Island’s virgin nature, now provides an antidote to the grimness of the city.”. We want to utilize and heighten these otherworldly qualities that currently exist in Chambord to provide the antidote to the contemporary city.

2018-2019

Figure Figure

Competition Winner | Chambord, 1519-2019 : l’utopie à l’oeuvre (Competition by Dominique Perrault Architects) | Jury Prize Winner

Akhil Mathew & Adam Wells

© 2023 by Akhil Mathew