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Typological Urbanism and the Idea of a City

Typological Urbanism and the Idea of a City

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Published by golnar
The article is an attempt to outline a
possible position and approach that enables the conjectural impulses of architectural production to recover its relevance to the city. Implicit to this is that the relationship between architecture and the city is reciprocal and that the city is the
overt site for architectural knowledge par excellence.
The article is an attempt to outline a
possible position and approach that enables the conjectural impulses of architectural production to recover its relevance to the city. Implicit to this is that the relationship between architecture and the city is reciprocal and that the city is the
overt site for architectural knowledge par excellence.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: golnar on Dec 25, 2012
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By Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby



Chengdu. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby). China. Architectural Association. 2008 Urban plan of airport. 15 .Yifan Liu. What defines China’s public image of monumentality and iconicity? The project subverts the idea of the People’s Square and turns its heroic figure into an airport. The Great Flight Forward. London.

Seoul.A warehouse can be turned into apartments. 16 . Bolam Lee. 2007 above: Model. The project aims to exploit the defunct middle floors of multiplexes (multifunctional. Architectural Association. What this means is that a functional reduction prevents other knowledge that can be obtained from type by considering it as belonging to a group of formal. hyperdense high-rises) in Seoul and converts them into vertical public spaces. opposite: Urban plan of Multiplex City. London. The reconfigured high-rise is spliced with vertical public spaces and functions as an urban punctuator. Multiplex City. and a Georgian terrace into a school. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby). South Korea. historical and sociocultural aspects.

2 ‘Type’. Macau built the world’s biggest casino and Dubai the tallest skyscraper. What this means is that a functional reduction prevents other knowledge that can be obtained from type by considering it as belonging to a group of formal. This proposition to re-empower the architect in the context of urban architectural production is founded on the realisation of three essential predicaments that need to be addressed by both the profession and academia. prisons. with the current level of around 50 per cent increasing to approximately 69 per cent by 2050. is predominantly driven by the regime of difference in search of novelty. Thus typology is the discourse. the discipline’s inability to confidently and comprehensively describe. Its reduction to categories of use is limiting. recent projects by young practices further illustrate the possibility of utilising the notion of type in informing the ‘idea of the city’. treatise (method) or science of type. The essential quality of change and transformation rather than its strict classification or obedience to historical continuity endows type with the possibility to transgress its functional and formal limitations. theorise and ultimately project any new ideas of architecture in relationship to the city must be confronted and rethought. this issue tries to dispel the common misunderstanding of the notion of type (and typology) and its common misuse as the ‘straw man’ in architectural experimentation and propositions. hospitals. which means ‘a discourse. historical and sociocultural aspects. To achieve the stated meta-critical aim. the relentless speed and colossal scale of urbanisation. however. theory. and a Georgian terrace into a school. has resulted in the profession merely responding to these rapid changes and challenges in retrospect. Latin America and the Caribbean. It re-argues for the instrumentality of type and typology in the field of urbanism and the city. It outlines the terms on which the discussion of type and typology can unfold today in a more precise and considered manner.’4 Type consequently is an element. Firstly.At the heart of this title of 2 is an attempt to outline a possible position and approach that enables the conjectural impulses of architectural production to recover its relevance to the city. proposing that the reconsideration of these projects renews and enriches the understanding of working typologically. and so on. as buildings are independent from their function and evolve over time. theory or science’. Dubai or Shanghai. Similarly. whether in Macau.1 The separation of architecture and urban planning into segregated domains – for efficiency and speed – has left each discipline impotent to deal with the ruptured. as Aldo Rossi and Neo-Rationalism have already argued. should not be confused with ‘typology’. treatise. decentralised and fast-changing context. has departed from the Western models of centralised organisation and planning. Type and Typology In common usage the words ‘type’ and ‘typology’ have become interchangeable and understood as buildings grouped by their use: schools. Implicit to this is that the relationship between architecture and the city is reciprocal and that the city is the overt site for architectural knowledge par excellence. Finally. Africa. the architecture of this new urbanisation.3 A warehouse can be turned into apartments. With this increasing stultification. The suffix ‘-ology’ comes from the Greek logia. with its Burj Khalifa beating the recently completed Shanghai World Finance Center of 2008 to this superlative. the form of urbanisation in emerging cities in the developing countries. fuelled by the market economy. and in particular in Asia. For Quatremère: ‘The word type presents less the image of a thing to copy or imitate completely than the idea of an element which ought itself to serve as a rule for the model. For the definition of the word ‘type’ in architectural theory we can turn to Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy’s masterful explanation in the Dictionnaire d’architecture (1825) that formally introduced the notion into the architectural discourse. a thing that embodies the idea. Secondly. Type 17 . and features four projects that are conventionally not seen as fitting within the framework of typology. an object. conceptualise.

the project strategically proposes polynodal gateway airports that disperse congestion multidirectionally within Makkah’s valleys.Deena Fakhro. the Holy City of Makkah is flooded by a surge of three million pilgrims. To counter the financial burden of the redundant hajj infrastructure. Saudi Arabia. Once a year. top and opposite: An airport. switching between pilgrim surges and student populations. 18 . sections and views of airport. London. the gateway airports are opportunistically combined with mosque-based Islamic universities: airportmosques. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby). demanding unparalleled infrastructural miracles. Architectural Association. 2008 above and centre: Typical plans. a mosque: a city gateway. Makkah. every year. The Holy City and its Discontent. In response to the pilgrim surge in Makkah.

For Cerdá. This is evident in the exotic formal experiments of the past 15 years: every fold. The idea of the ‘model’. These architectural experiments have no relevance beyond the formal and cannot be considered an invention. urbanism was the science that manages and regulates the growth of the city through housing and economic activities. is by Quatremère understood as the ideal that an architect should strive for but which never fully materialises in the process of creative production.is abstract and conceptual rather than concrete and literal. He understood the word ‘urbs’ at the root of ‘urbanisation’ and. but it was Ildefons Cerdá – a Catalan engineer and the urban planner of the Barcelona Eixample – who first invented the words ‘urbanism’ and ‘urbanisation’ in his Theory of Urbanization (1867). it remains unclear what these ill properties or characteristics of type are that the novel forms want to replace and to what ends.6 In ‘Type? What Type?’ (pages 56–65). due to the casual if not naive treatment of the type. This idea. and a scale beyond that of a single building incorporated in an urban plan. These projects clarify the utilisation of design models to synthesise types with the complexities of practice and reality through the instrumentality of typological and serial models of organisation. Michael Hensel recounts his personal experiences in the early 1990s at the Architectural Association (AA) in London – according to him an important juncture for the theory and experiments of architecture in urbanism – which he argues failed to recognise the need for a wider contextualisation of experimentation. a city or town’. Thus Durand’s Précis outlines an important element of the didactic theory of type and constitutes what we understand by typology. Typology and the Urban Plan The coupling of the concept of type as idea and model allows us to discuss its instrumentality in the urban context. Durand attempts to establish a systematic method of classifying buildings according to genres and abstracts them into diagrams. as Quatremère stated. This thematic engagement is complemented by the projects of UNStudio in ‘Typological Instruments: Connecting Architecture and Urbanism’ by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos (pages 66–77).5 He proposes that new types emerge in response to the requirements of a changing society and urban conditions.7 Thus the process of urbanisation inevitably involves multiple stakeholders. every swoosh and whoosh is justified as being superior to the types it displaces. for there would be no way to judge invention’. The misunderstanding of type and typology. their transformation and hybridisation in order to fulfil the ambitions and requirements of an architectural project in an urban context. classification. every twist and bend. Typical Objects and Typologies’ (pages 24–31) provides a critical and historiographical discussion of type’s role in defining the architectural object and its relationship to the city. ‘does not exist outside rules. The word ‘urbanism’ means ‘of. repetition. differentiation and reinvention. a diversity of inhabitants. living or situated in. proposed that its focus was not the (historical and symbolic) city centre but the suburbs. Its idea guides or governs over the rules of the model. The specific responses demonstrate that typological design models are capable of. introduced precepts that are fundamental to working typologically: precedents. This notion of type as model. attacked by many for its perceived restrictions. following a Neoplatonic and metaphysical tradition. graphically reducible to diagrams. taxonomy. and require. in opposition to the notion of the city. However. has resulted in the deliberate rejection of typological knowledge. 19 . on the other hand. is developed by Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand in his typological design method of the Précis des leçons d’architecture données à l’École royale polytechnique (1802–05). developed almost at the same time as Quatremère’s typological theory at the turn of the 19th century. Marina Lathouri in ‘The City as a Project: Types. This inclusive urban plan has to be differentiated from the masterplan predicated on singular authority and control. for invention. In the Précis. whereby the typological diagrams are adapted to the constraints of specific sites.

This project should be understood in relation to other projects such as the Moriyama House in Tokyo (2005) and the recently completed Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne (2010). concentrated settlement that precedes the urb. described. they tend to specialise and form a distinct character. It is through this understanding that we are proposing that the idea of the city can be embodied in these dominant types.9 In ‘Type. attempting to relate the architectural object to human situations. and at the same time refers to the irreducible structure of the types in question. and are always linked to other cities by trade and resources. These ‘elements of permanence’ in the city are exemplified by town halls. resulting in a stratified society that is functionally differentiated and politically divided. It is usually demarcated by a city wall and a point of concentration for people and activities. Typicalities.The instrumentality of type in the process of envisioning. which rethink the building as a piece of city fabric through the mat-building typology. Type and the City If urbanisation is concerned with the expansion of human settlement driven primarily by economics. the city is envisioned as aggregating into a continuous whole. but its history is often formalised in the construction of civic buildings and landmarks that express a common identity. In the Penang Tropical City (2004) by OMA (pages 78–89). Japan.11 This city is a historical product and centred on the civic and symbolic functions of human settlement and coexistence. Culture. distinct building types are grouped together to form ‘islands of exacerbated difference’ as yet another enactment of Koolhaas’ idea of the ‘Cities within the City’ developed with OM Ungers in 1977. The function of the diagram hereby is both diagnostic and projective. Through Rossi. Perhaps the most unusual 20 inclusion is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (2004) in Kanazawa. cities can be understood. building. regulating and administering the urban plan lies in its ability to act as a pliable diagram. says Carl. museums and archives. while this freedom depends in turn on that which is common to all for its meaning. As cities owe their main characteristic to geographical and topographical conditions. A number of further projects by OMA. Field.8 The diagrams of type. history and meaning of precedent types that are then developed into new design solutions. libraries.12 It is this distinct character coupled with the need to accommodate differences that gives rise to the possibility of a collective meaning for the city. which attempts a different approach to city-making. are ‘those aspects common to all’. From Barcelona with its Cerdá housing blocks. Toyo Ito. however. SANAA and l’AUC provide a second reading of how a recourse to typology is necessary when dealing with the urban context. conceptualised and theorised through their own particular dominant types. are not mere graphic representations of the urban plan. exerting a claim on freedom. London with its Victorian and Georgian terraces and New York with its Manhattan skyscrapers. indexing the irreducible typal imprints that serve as the elemental parts to the plan. In Ito’s proposal. by SANAA (pages 94–101). l’AUC pursues a re-representation and projection of the metropolitan conditions through typological intensifications of a super-metropolitan matrix in the Grand Paris Stimulé (2008–09 – pages 108–9). we learn that a building as . open spaces and services into an integrated piece of architecture. but embody the basic organisational performance. fusing infrastructure. This meaning changes over time in response to its evolving inhabitants and external circumstances. the city on the other hand is the consolidated.10 Toyo Ito’s project for the Singapore Buona Vista Masterplan (2001 – see pages 90–3) develops the use of prototypical elements – albeit in a more ‘fluid’ manner – that bears traces to his preoccupations with the problems of collective form that typified the Metabolist movement of the 1960s in Japan. communicating the idea of the city in response to specific historical and sociocultural conditions. Praxis’ (pages 38–45) Peter Carl clarifies that ‘types are isolated fragments of a deeper and richer structure of typicalities’.

Incorporating high-speed rail and topped with three runways.Max von Werz. 2008 top: Airport visualisation. Spain. UK. Martin Jameson. Architectural Association. Architectural Association. The solution: a 12-kilometre (7. Project Runway. London. Open Source Fabric. Zorrozaurre. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby). Heathrow Airport is top of the long list of London’s planning disasters. Thames Estuary. 2007 opposite left: Urban plan. The stringing together of the exterior void offers the possibility of coexistence between the models of knowledge environments: the suburban-like technopark and the city-like technopole. The differentiation of urban blocks and their collective voids is utilised to absorb the shifts in the knowledge industry that is to occupy the peninsula of Zorrozaurre. infrastructure without damage to civic life. the project introduces the heterogeneity of diverse type-specific environments capable of consolidating leisure networks to attract a lived-in population within the peninsula. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby). The impact: regeneration without sprawl.5-mile) inhabited bridge across the mouth of the Thames Estuary. above: Fragment model of airport. London. Resisting the tendency for singular types. 21 . this new urban condition manifests a compressed and highly varied programme tightly contained within a strict envelope. Bilbao. opposite right: Urban plan fragment.

London. Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby). Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby). Chengdu. the project inverts its massing through the cultivation of multiple urban plans within the skyscraper type. Architectural Association. Yifan Liu. It resists the formation of the state-engineered Generic Empire – a city entirely subjugated to the whims of large corporations – by providing a typological framework that cultivates difference through the coexistence of multiple types. brings together arguments and projects that demonstrate a commitment to the empowerment of the architect to once again utilise his or her disciplinary knowledge. Singapore. Resisting the Generic Empire. To wrest control of the ground plane from the proliferating skyscrapers. 2006 top: Masterplan model.Typological Urbanism. new intimate scales of public spaces derived from the traditional Chinese courtyard-house typology are released and become prominent. Architectural Association. China. Yi Cheng Pan. its edge the terminals and aerotropolis. London. Its void becomes the runway. The project explores the issues of control and difference. 2008 opposite: Masterplan model of airport. in conclusion. This strategy releases the ground plane for immediate activation by smaller building types (and stakeholders) and creates multiple ‘clustered’ volumes for increased public and private partnerships. 22 . above: Urban plan. The People’s Square has become the airport. By enforcing the edge and limiting its growth. The Great Flight Forward. and challenges Singapore’s addiction to the ubiquitous high-rise type.

2000. ‘Type’. see Spiro Kostof. AA Publications (London). but through the authoritativeness of the prototype itself. London 23 . Africa. 2007. Rem Koolhaas. The original series by Pevsner. 2008. comprising a layer of grids that denote both structure and geometric composition. The Architecture of the City. Thames & Hudson (London). This understanding of the diagram is fundamentally different from interpreting diagrams of flows and pseudoscientific indexes as novel tectonics. Typological Formations: Renewable Building Types and the City. type is independent of function and therefore pliable. medical cities. 1982. In the Xi’an Horticultural Masterplan project by Serie Architects (pages 120–7). 2. in conclusion. 12. Traditional cities are defined by their relationships to river banks. 4. in Encyclopédie Méthodique. 11. Précis of the Lectures on Architecture. Martino Tattara in ‘Brasilia’s Superquadra: Prototypical Design and the Project of the City’ (pages 46–55) proposes that the ‘prototype’ is the exemplar that does not reproduce itself through a set of norms. Quatremere De Quincy’s Historical Dictionary of Architecture: The True. New York. Compare with Aldo Rossi. Getty Trust Publications (Los Angeles). DOGMA. large-scale design and political economy. in Lotus International 19. Wales and Ireland. For a more detailed account. The city wall as a dominant type is utilised as the deep structure that sets out a typological grammar for the city. and Latin America and the Caribbean. and from 45 per cent to 66 per cent in less developed regions. 1 Notes 1. ‘Rule’. Population Division. in Encyclopédie Méthodique. ‘Cities Within the City: Proposal by the Sommerakademie Berlin’. 3. op cit. Durand’s diagrams primarily capture the structural elements of various building types. 5. has been expanded and is now published by Yale University Press as Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England. In part. China. the Fictive and the Real. trans Samir Younés. This ultimately constitutes a new disciplinary operativity by considering the prototype as a ‘seed’ for the idea of the city. 10. To understand these types is to understand the city itself. see Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby (eds). financial cities. sea ports. construction and form. Architectural Association School of Architecture. Images © Diploma Unit 6. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision. railways. trans David Britt. 9.3 billion by 2050 will result in the growth of urbanisation levels in more developed regions from currently 75 per cent to 86 per cent. 8. 1977. Oswald Matthias Ungers. 2000. achieving an average of 69 per cent. 2010. 1825. in their ‘A Simple Heart: Architecture on the Ruins of a Post-Fordist City’ (pages 110–19) investigate the possibility by focusing on the relationship between architectural form. The difference between ‘urb’ and ‘city’ and its implication are developed by Pier Vittorio Aureli in ‘Toward the Archipelago’. MIT Press (Cambridge. For a more elaborate description of the evolution of cities and its definition. Papadakis Publisher (London). Pier Vittorio Aureli in ‘City as Political Form: Four Archetypes of Urban Transformation’ (pages 32–7) discusses the instrumentality of paradigmatic architectural archetype as an extensive governance apparatus and proposes that while the evolution of the city can be thought of as the evolution of urban types. Text © 2011 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. It is an insistence on architecture that not only answers the didactic question of ‘how to?’ but also the meta-critical question of ‘why do?’. 6. its realisation can only happen within a political ‘state of exception’. Typological Urbanism. The United Nations expects that the population increase of 2. Similarly.Scotland. sport cities and so on. this tendency to classify group buildings according to use can be attributed to Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England (1951–75). This is rendered less as a ‘working’ proposition and more as an idea of the city brought to its (extreme) logical conclusions.an element of ‘permanence’ is able to act as the typological repository of a city’s history. for Penguin. Vol 3. It is a re-engagement with architecture’s exteriority and architectural experimentation governed by reason and (re)inventions underpinned by typological reasoning. Peter Riemann. the transformation of an artefact of the city is used to confront the problem of centrality and the possible recuperation of the tradition of city-making in Xi’an. prescriptions or rules. Quatremère de Quincy. Hans Kollhoff and Peter Ovaska. Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand. Vol 3. trans Diane Ghirardo and Joan Ockman. Quatremère de Quincy. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Most of the population growth will take place in urban areas in Asia. MA). Two projects by DOGMA and Serie offer a possible demonstration of the manifestation of the idea of the city as an architectural project. See United Nations. For Rossi. 7. in Log 11. 1999. brings together arguments and projects that demonstrate a commitment to the empowerment of the architect to once again utilise his or her disciplinary knowledge. City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History. Today we see cities that position themselves as knowledge cities. highlands (hill towns) and so on.

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