Through five years of research and four conceptually very similar major projects, MIASTO proposed a radical renewal of the urban structure and the habitat. Emerging within a social context of growth and dazzling technological progress, the French group’s experimental approach was linked with the “futurological” tendency which was running through architecture at the time (a tendency theorized by Michel Ragon in the GIAP in 1965). All MIASTO’s research was based on the acknowledgement and consideration of an urban organization completely reliant upon its communication systems, which are usually underground. The idea thus consists in highlighting these networks by raising them above the ground in order to thus derive the form and the actual structure of the city “constructed around and upon means of liaison”. The industrialized plastic cell represents the basic unit of a flexible and moveable habitat now opening onto a relational and organic space. In its first Ville plastique project (1965), MIASTO organized dwellings along a winding circuit punctuated by powerful masts on which the cells were grouped together. In order to meet the need to adapt each housing unit to the occupant’s personality, the architects made use of an extensive industrialization process which made it possible, at low cost, to make the form of each cell different. This principle would then be used for the Concours de Gand/Ghent Competition in 1967. In 1969 and 1970, MIASTO extended its research to the whole city through a model of total urbanization, as applied both to Vétheuil sur Seine (1969) and to Bagnolet et la banlieue Est de Paris (1970). Here, the transport and communication systems were removed from the ground and raised to create gigantic arches reaching a height of 150 metres (500 feet). The members of MIASTO ceased their collaboration in 1970, with each one continuing their architectural activities in different agencies. Justus Dahinden (1972) and Michel Ragon (1978) would publish their projects in their historical books about experimental architecture.
MIASTO (meaning ‘city’ in Polish) was a group of French architects formed in Paris in 1965 by Michel Lefebvre, Jan Karczewski and Witold Zandfos—the last two of Polish origin. In 1965, at the Paris Biennale, MIASTO presented an installation based on the Ville plastique, which was awarded the first prize for team work. In 1967, they won 8th prize at the Concours International de Gand. The Paris Biennale of 1967 then followed, where they presented a city project based on pneumatic transport systems, along with exhibitions in Zurich (Centre Le Corbusier) and Paris (Museum of Decorative Arts) in 1969. MIASTO was selected to take part in the Grand Prix International d’Urbanisme et d’Architecture in Cannes in 1969 and 1970, the year in which the group broke up.
Nadine Labedade, Aurélien Vernant