Takis Zenetos | Electronic Urbanism

Takis Zenetos was born in Athens, Greece, and would design some of the most beautiful buildings in Greece during the 60’s and early 70’s. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduating in 1954. Living in Paris in the lively atmosphere of pioneering artistic and cultural life of the postwar period. His few remaining modernist buildings are out of favor and some are targets for demolition. Sadly, Zenetos committed suicide in 1977.

Zenetos worked in some interesting avant-garde speculative projects, one of them known as Electronic Urbanism. The basic idea of Electronic Urbanism [which Zenetos designed, developed and investigated from 1952 to 1974] is the creation of a system with diverse levels and locations for different urban functions, primarily residential, suspended from natural environments [as cantilevers or mountains] and integrated with all communications technologies, that allow wide-ranging connections among people and social groups. The extensive use of tele-work, tele-management, tele-medicine and tele-education redefines the human environment geared to free communication and creative occupation.

As Jane Jacobs says in her great book The Death and Life of Great American Cities:

Cities are an inmense laboratory of trial and error, failure and success, in city building and city design. This is the laboratory in which city planning should have been learning and forming and testing its theories.

Even if Zenetos didn’t have the opportunity to know if the ideas behind Electronic Urbanism would have worked or not, his approach to technologies focused on telecommunications, was really innovative for the time.

The co-existence of different periods of this urban grid with a road network that is temporarily suspended in the air, corresponds to the period of the automobile boom. The grid acts as an envelope to the city, working in three phases: The first one is a traditional city block, bounded by streets, with a clear space inside and built on the ground. In the second, the urban unit of the block is broken with internal courtyards tied together, while at the same time, the ground is gradually released and the functions on it moves to the first floor. In the third phase we can see the complete reunification and recovery of natural areas, while all functions are placed upon a system of cables suspended in the air, something that remember us about the Spatial City by Yona Friedman.

The principle of this system is based in horizontal forces (wind or earthquakes) as the major structural problem in a building or bridge. This factor is controlled by locating the units of the grid facing each other. The building, then, took part in the shape of a sphere [and a hyperbolic paraboloid].

3D model from Electronic Urbanism by Y. Orfanos and D. Papadopoulos in 2003.

In the book Takis Zenetos. Visioni digitali, architetture costruite by Dimitris Papalexopoulos and Eleni Kalafati, we can read:

In his correspondence with Frei Otto, he [Zenetos] criticizes Friedman, proposing solutions and arguments in favor of structures even lighter. Studying different applications simultaneously with the concepts of economic development, the nation should welcomes Electronic Urbanism. Thus, for countries in developing stages of transition, he defines technological capabilities adapted to the moment.

Above: A collaborative space for four people.

“The structure of the city and the house of tomorrow will be fleeting almost something fluttering and whenever possible, inmaterial.” -Zenetos.

There is no much information about Zenetos. We just found this great post about the Cable City at BLDGBLOG, the introduction of the book “Takis Zenetos, Visioni Digitali, Architetture costruite” written by Antonino Saggio, called Zenetos Rivelato [in Italian] and some other projects, here and here.


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