Planning for Ecumenopolis: Constantinos A. Doxiadis' Quest to Design Postwar Athens, the United States, and the World

Blackman, Harrison [Browse]
Senior thesis


Isenberg, Alison E. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of History [Browse]
Princeton University. Program in Urban Studies [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1913-1975) was a complicated, prominent, and long-neglected figure in the history of Cold War architecture and urban planning. This work aims to 1) situate Doxiadis in the history of Athens planning, 2) assess how his relationship with American foundations and media impacted his role and legacy in Athens, and 3) make the case for Doxiadis’ legacy to be reconsidered in Athens and abroad. Long before Doxiadis came onto the scene, Athens’ urban form had been defined by the conflict between the neoclassical planning ideas envisioned by Western European backers and the city’s persistent growth of urban sprawl. Influenced by the grandiose ideas of Le Corbusier and Walter Christaller, Doxiadis sought to rein in the forces of Athenian sprawl over the course of his private career from 1952 to 1975. At the same time, Doxiadis hoped to use his success in the United States as a springboard toward achieving dominance as a global urban planner and orthodoxy for his interdisciplinary planning approach of “ekistics.” To meet these ends and attract support from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Doxiadis’ writings and media appearances appealed to the West’s historical appreciation for classical Hellenic civilization and simultaneously utilized exaggerated polemical rhetoric that animated the urban crises of the time. Allured by the philhellenic rhetoric, those same foundations sought to direct Doxiadis to the subject of planning Athens, but Doxiadis’ projects in both Greece and the United States fell victim to a number of forces: his poor relations with Greek politicians, his tendency to expand his projects to unmanageable scales, and persistent skepticism on the part of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations regarding his planning approach. As a result, many of Doxiadis’ plans and projects failed to be implemented, contributing to his falling out of favor in the history of postwar urban planning. However, this thesis argues that this legacy should be reconsidered. While Doxiadis’ visionary ideas were often outlandish, they were also compelling because they correctly predicted many aspects of Athens’ future growth and motivated the architects he had trained to translate his ideas into practical architecture after his death. Finally, the story of Doxiadis’ life is one integral to histories of the Cold War, postcolonial planning, and Modern Greece. The examination of Doxiadis’ role reveals deep-seated planning trends in Athens’ modern development, as well Greece’s persistent dependence on external powers, two issues relevant to the study of Athens in the 21st century, as its citizens endure the ongoing debt and refugee crises.
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