The International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) was founded in June 1928, at the Chateau de la Sarraz in Switzerland, by a group of 28 European architects organized by Le Corbusier, Hélène de Mandrot (owner of the castle), and Sigfried Giedion (the first secretary-general). CIAM was one of many 20th century manifestos meant to advance the cause of "architecture as a social art".
Other founder members included Karl Moser (first president), Victor Bourgeois, Pierre Chareau, Josef Frank, Gabriel Guevrekian, Max Ernst Haefeli, Hugo Häring, Arnold Höchel, Huib Hoste, Pierre Jeanneret (cousin of Le Corbusier), André Lurçat, Ernst May, Fernando García Mercadal, Hannes Meyer, Werner Max Moser, Carlo Enrico Rava, Gerrit Rietveld, Alberto Sartoris, Hans Schmidt, Mart Stam, Rudolf Steiger, Henri-Robert Von der Mühll, and Juan de Zavala. The Soviet delegates were to be El Lissitzky, Nikolai Kolli and Moisei Ginzburg, although at the Sarraz conference they were unable to obtain visas.
Other later members included Alvar Aalto, Louis Herman De Koninck (1929) and Hendrik Petrus Berlage. In 1941, Harwell Hamilton Harris was chosen as secretary of the American branch of CIAM, which was the Chapter for Relief and Post War Planning, founded in New York City.
The organization was hugely influential. It was not only engaged in formalising the architectural principles of the Modern Movement, but also saw architecture as an economic and political tool that could be used to improve the world through the design of buildings and through urban planning.
The fourth CIAM meeting in 1933 was to have been held in Moscow. The rejection of Le Corbusier's competition entry for the Palace of the Soviets, a watershed moment and an indication that the Soviets had abandoned CIAM's principles, changed those plans. Instead it was held onboard ship, the SS Patris II, which sailed from Marseilles to Athens.
Here the group discussed concentrated on principles of "The Functional City," which broadened CIAM's scope from architecture into urban planning. Based on an analysis of thirty-three cities, CIAM proposed that the social problems faced by cities could be resolved by strict functional segregation, and the distribution of the population into tall apartment blocks at widely spaced intervals. These proceedings went unpublished from 1933 until 1942, when Le Corbusier, acting alone, published them in heavily edited form as the "Athens Charter."
As CIAM members traveled world-wide after the war, many of its ideas spread outside Europe, notably to the USA. The city planning ideas were adopted in the rebuilding of Europe following World War II, although by then some CIAM members had their doubts. Alison and Peter Smithson were chief among the dissenters. When implemented in the postwar period, many of these ideas were compromised by tight financial constraints, poor understanding of the concepts, or popular resistance. Mart Stam's replanning of postwar Dresden in the CIAM formula was rejected by its citizens as an "all-out attack on the city."
For a reform of the CIAM, the group Team 10 was active from 1953 onwards, and two different movements emerged from it: the New Brutalism of the English members (Alison and Peter Smithson) and the Structuralism (architecture) of the Dutch members (Aldo van Eyck and Jacob Bakema).