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Typology: the cultural construct

Typology: the cultural construct

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Niall O'Sullivan. Originally submitted for CK606 BSc (Hons) Architecture at University College Cork, with lecturer Lorenzo Cammoranesi in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Niall O'Sullivan. Originally submitted for CK606 BSc (Hons) Architecture at University College Cork, with lecturer Lorenzo Cammoranesi in the category of Historical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Typology – the cultural construct
“Because they often fail to apprehend that the associations between architectural objects andcultural ideals are fundamentally unpredictable, many architects, when describing their work, emphasise control of precisely the part or aspect of the built environment over whichtheir influence is least assured.” (Designing power and identity)The above quotation is an interesting opening thought because architecture and culturalideals have always been intrinsically linked. However cultures change and evolve, buildingsremain constant. To this end it seems vital that buildings be flexible enough to accomodatenew requirements and so a factory becomes an art gallery, a convent becomes a library andso on. Yet I would argue that some ideals are constant regardless of how society changescertain structures will always carry associations with a cultural ideal. As Kate Nesbitt hasargued the meaning of form is a cultural construct which is built up over time in people'smind through layers of association and experience both academic and visceral. This is my primary argument; buildings are designed with a certain attitude on the part of the architectand this will always be informed in part by precedent, the combined experience of allarchitects and all built form. There are obvious associations made between certain ideals andcertain projects, for example we see the proliferation of Neo-Classicism as the standardarchitectural style for civic buildings of the 17
th
to 20
th
century throughout Western Europeand North America. Something in this form suggests it as an appropriate response to publicspace; it has constant cultural significance. This perhaps echoes the temples of AncientGreece where the religious festivals through which they worshipped their gods were centredon these sanctuaries, these festivals embraced all citizens and indeed all the people of thecity including slaves in a celebration of shared faith and civic pride. Truely these were public buildings that created a focal point of exteme potence. In Greek society, for certaindays of the year all people were equals in their shared humanity and the temple is the
 
 physical manifestation of this experience. In terms of the civic aspect the temple besides being the site of these occasions of celebration they were primarily the home of the god or goddess who took special favour on the settlement, their patron and emblem of defenseagainst forces both human and natural (or indeed supernatural). In this way the temple wasalso the physical representation of the civic spirit of the city.There is something innately public about the temple, in my opinion, this would seem to havehistoric backing as well however as the chosen form for town halls, court houses, libraries, banks educational institutions, churches etc., all of which share the common aim of housinga superhuman force, community, justice, knowledge, wealth, wisdom, faith. At leastaspirationally. It seemed to me that this form is the obvious choice from an historicalviewpoint for any such building. Alan Colquhoun put forward the idea that regardless of theamount of objective analysis conducted at some point the designer must make 'an intuitiveleap' and that this leap is based on historic experience, precedent. “...the area of pureintuition must be based on a knowledge of past solutions applied to related problems, andthat creation is a process of adapting forms derived either from past needs or from pastaesthetic ideologies to the needs of the present.” (Colquhoun, 2008, p48) Successive cultureshave created an image of the temple that goes beyond function, it is an ideal, but what is atemple?

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