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apostolos

Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis

Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis (often quoted as C.A. Doxiadis) (1913 - 28 June 1975), the father of Ekistics was a Greek architect and town planner of world wide influence and significance. At the peak of his career and influence, in the 1960s, he addressed the US Congress on the future of American cities, his portrait illustrated the front cover of Time Magazine, his company Doxiadis Associates was implementing many billion dollar projects in housing, urban and regional development in more than 40 countries, his Computer Centre (UNIVAC-DACC) was at the cutting edge of the computer technology of his time and at his annual "Delos Symposium" the World Society of Ekistics attracted the worlds foremost thinkers and experts.

His influence had already diminished at his death in 1975, unable to speak for the last two years of his life, a victim of multiple sclerosis. His company Doxiadis Associates changed owners several times after his death, the heir to his computer company remains a healthy enterprise but without any links to planning or Ekistics. The Delos Symposium was discontinued, and the World Society of Ekistics is today an obscure organisation.

He has been criticised as the Master salesman of the planning trade. His Ekistics have not been accepted in academic circles as a science, his theories have been criticised as lacking in robustness and the ideological left has accused him of designing car cities and as being "a man of the Americans." Such criticisms contain some truths but are lopsided and exaggerated and ignore the evidence on the ground - what he has built.

Doxiadis graduated in architectural engineering from the Technical University of Athens in 1935, obtaining a doctorate from Charlottenburg University in Berlin a year later. He took part in the Greek resistance and was decorated by the Greek and British governments. He distinguished himself as Minister of Reconstruction at the end of the war and it was this experience that allowed him in the 1950s to gain massive housing contracts in dozens of countries.

He was indeed a master salesman. He was a mesmerising public [speaker] and had a unique ability to represent complex spatial phenomena in clear, convincing, mind grabbing maps and diagrams.

His very wise and practical ideas were often accompanied by a lot of salespeak hot air. His I.D.E.A. (isolation of dimensions and elimination of alternatives) was a pseudoscientific methodology for selecting one plan out of the millions of theoretical alternatives. It did introduce some discipline and method into the process of selection but the decisions were arbitrary and were of course his own.

He undertook extremely detailed and expensive studies of existing conditions in order to justify the use of hundreds of experts at exorbitant fees and then arrived at a future projection that was based on simple assumptions and analogies. The population projections for the cities he planned were thus criticised as wild and unscientific. Fifty years later they have turned out to be incredibly accurate!

Some of his most important theoretical proposals and especially the idea of hierarchical planning within a grid of networks and communities was probably unoriginal and was shared by many leading town planners of his time. He implemented it, though, thoroughly and efficiently. And this is what makes him unique. He built what others only talked about and it is here to see and evaluate today!

The supreme example on the ground of his town planning work is Islamabad. Designed from scratch as a new city it is there today to see exactly as Doxiadis planned it, unlike many of his other interventions in already existing cities, where shifting political and economic fortunes did not allow a full implementation of his plans and recommendations and do not permit an unquestionable evaluation. Superbly efficient, Islamabad, keeps cars and people apart, allows easy cheap access to all networks (transport, water, sewerage, electricity, telephones etc) and permits low cost gradual expansion and growth without ever losing the human scale of his "communities". Across Africa and Asia where he succeeded in selling his plans, the return to the investment has been stupendous. Governments and citizens have saved billions of dollars and millions of working hours, have escaped from trillions of decibels of noise and from billions of tons of pollution. Compare the cities of Africa and Asia where he did not go!

His high theorising about the future of human settlements was again based on detailed observations of existing conditions and on simple assumptions and extrapolations. Again they have turned out to be very accurate. Compare his maps of the Ecumenopolis of the future with today's satellite photographs that were not available in his time. He had indeed close links to the American establishment and they assisted him in getting lucrative contracts in countries under their influence and in the US itself. But so did many Greeks in post civil war Greece. Most achieved nothing special, some became infamous millionaires, none entered the US Congress as an expert on his own right and built cities that will outlive him by millennia.

Half a scientist and half a salesman, half a visionary and half a man of action, he simply succeeded where others failed, he simply constructed what others only imagined.

In his own country, Greece, he faced persistent suspicion and opposition and his recommendations were largely ignored. Having won two large contracts (National Regional Plan for Greece and Master Plan for Athens) from the Greek Junta he was crucified by jealous competitors, after its fall in 1974, portrayed as a friend of the colonel's which he simply was not.

Athenians will probably regret, for years to come, not listening to his "wild" ideas. He insisted that the new Athens airport should be constructed outside the mainland, on the adjacent arid island of Makronissos together with a bridge, a rail link and a brand new world class port at Lavrion. It has instead been built in the centre of the olive trees and vineyards of Attica and is already being encircled by urban sprawl. Part of the already congested port of Piraeus has been rented for 35 years to the Chinese.

Those that worked with him have never forgotten his undying drive and optimism, his ability to inspire and to lead, his super-fast decision making, the incredible efficiency of Doxiadis Associates under his leadership.

Book "Ekistics"

Doxiadis proposes ekistics as a science of human settlement and outlines its scope, aims, intellectual framework and relevance. A major incentive for the development of the science is the emergence of increasingly large and complex settlements, tending to regional conurbations and even to a world-wide city (Doxiadis uses the word "ecumenopolis"). However, ekistics aims to encompass all scales of human habitation and seeks to learn from the archaeological and historical record by looking not only at great cities, but, as much as possible, at the total settlement pattern.

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