The Transition Of The Olympic City From Visual Representations Of Coubertin’s Modern Ideal To City Representations As Fashionable Images
My interest in this particular subject, involving the analysis of design and architectural proposals for the Olympic city, derives from an earlier MPhil study, completed in 2001 (see section 3.1.2). My PhD research gave me the chance to further my investigation in this subject and focus on the role of Olympic design and architecture and the analysis of the material that describes the aesthetic character and language of host cities. By writing this thesis, I have connected, the Olympic city subject with critical theory involving issues of modern cities’ changing urban, social and cultural identities, reflected in their represented image, and I have also used methods of visual analysis. Within the course of the last ten years of my research in this field, I realised that there is a research gap in the investigation of the visual identity of different Olympic cities. This research gap consists of a lack of research that attempts a critical review of the role of Olympic architecture and design since the first Summer Olympic Games in Athens 1896 and also a lack of examination and critical analysis of the visual (and descriptive) material available in the Olympic cities’ archives. More specifically, this analysis involves questions about: - the production of a ‘visual identity’ (i.e. information about the producer of this identity, the design criteria and influences, such as technological and ideological); - the relationship of this identity with the surrounding urban, social and cultural environment: ‘what knowledge is being deployed and whose knowledge is excluded from this representation’ (Rose, 2007, p.259); 10 - the changes in how this identity is communicated and perceived (changes in the audience, in the perception of the event as a spectacle, in media and in the means of communication involved). My research journey, from the gathering of the necessary material to the writing up of this thesis, has involved a historical review of archives from different sources (libraries, organising committees and the press). It has also involved a review of theories that facilitated the interpretation of the Olympic city development as a visual identity, placed within a historical and sociocultural context. Methodologically, therefore, this study is a synthesis based on both the gathering of secondary data and also critical theory on art, design and architecture and on cities’ urban and social development. The work of the following researchers has been especially useful in exploring many of the thesis’ arguments: theorists such as Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch who are concerned with the modern city development; David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard and Zygmunt Bauman, who examine the transformations in twentieth century social and cultural conditions (modernism and postmodernism); and also Sharon Zukin, Kevin Robins, and Anna Klingmann, who examine the social and cultural transformations in contemporary urban development. In this study, I also focus on the idea of transition and, therefore, on Olympic city examples that have made an immense effort to create a visual identity or alter the ways that people visually experienced them. I have been particularly interested in case studies that, with their design and architectural ideas and the ways they visually communicated the identity of a place, contributed to the transition of the Olympic city in its development as a visual identity. I suggest that, in addition to the examination of the Olympic city development as an urban plan (changing in size and scale and engaging with new technologies) and also as an international event (emerging to a mega-event), there is another type of development in Olympic design and architecture that is worth exploring, that of the Olympic city as a visual identity. 11 The original ideas in this thesis have to do with the development of the Olympic city as a visual identity and, therefore, with: - the analysis of visual material (photographs, maps, plans, pictures from the press and posters) and written material (from the Official Olympic reviews, the press, books, letters and speeches) having to do with Olympic cities since the Summer Olympic Games in Athens 1896. - the analysis of this material by interpreting the characteristics (design criteria, and priorities, who takes decisions and who is the image maker) behind each Olympic city’s design and architecture proposals. This analysis considers the promoted urban, social and cultural profile of the host city, but also considers any alternative (different from the represented) urban, social and cultural identity of the host city. - the selection of examples from the Olympic cities' visual identities that best represent the Olympic city as a transition from the modern to the postmodern era, based on characteristics from these visual identities that have faded, altered or been abolished and also characteristics that have been emphasised and promoted. Many of these characteristics changed the contemporary shape and represented profile not only of Olympic cities but also of cities in general. - the critical analysis of the role of design and architecture in the representation of an Olympic city, reflected in the characteristics of its visual identity.