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Building Types and Built Forms

Pavlos Philippou

To cite this article: Pavlos Philippou (2015) Building Types and Built Forms, The Journal of
Architecture, 20:6, 1127-1138, DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2015.1116880

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Published online: 22 Jan 2016.

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The Journal
of Architecture
Volume 20
Number 6
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Building Types and Built Forms additional chapter at the end, extending the story-
By Philip Steadman line to encompass the next wave of formal inno-
Matador, 2014 vations.1
ISBN: 978-1783062-591. Even a casual survey of the recent historiography
Hb, $25, pp. 424, with illustrations of architecture will attest that there are still two
dominant modes of addressing the fields sedimen-
ted richness: either as an historical narrative of
One of the paradoxes that has characterised the field linear development or an essentialist succession of
of architecture in the past several decades is the dis- diverse styles.2 And while these two are distinct,
parity of aspiration between design experimentation they are not totally unrelated. For all the theoretical
and theoretical reflection. Formulated differently, limitations of these two intellectual dispositions, like
there is an incongruity between ever-shifting those elucidated in Michel Foucaults The Archaeol-
design explorations and the stasis evident in how ogy of Knowledge,3 their obvious advantage is a
the field analyses and classifies its accumulated robust capacity to sift and classify a multitude of
material. This paradox is evident, for example, in material. Yet, their derivative intellectual price, as
the literature investigating projects that fall within Foucault eloquently forewarns, is an inescapable
the so-called Post-Modern, neo-Avant-Garde degree of generalisation that oscillates from the
and Parametricist dispositions, where the then- inexact to the unsubstantiated. Indeed, the work
latest design approachsay, direct references to of a number of key theorists and historians of the
architectures traditions in the 1980s, or intricate fieldsuch as: Robin Evans, Colin Rowe, Aldo
geometrical manipulation (such as folding) in the Rossi and Alan Colquhountestifies to the same
1990s, or parametric digital modelling (and script- conclusion, as well as to the fact that there is no
ing) more recentlyis regularly presented as the need to pursue this argument in philosophical
latest (global) style or the (great) new style after terms. But if style is inadequate to guide our reflec-
modernism. In other words, and apart from the tive judgement in architecture, what is the alterna-
possible legitimacy of these design explorations, by tive? One would expect that Philip Steadmans
deploying the discursively imprecise category of reply, considering his latest bookappropriately
style, there is an insistence upon remaining intellec- entitled Building Types and Built Formswould
tually rooted in a mode of reflective judgement pre- be typo-morphology.
dominantly theorised in the nineteenth century. In Typo-morphology brings together and produc-
this light, it is hardly surprising that many books tively cross-fertilises the close analysis of urban
charting the history of architecture are periodically form, morphology, with the problematisation of
re-published as expanded editions, whose evident spatial and organisational specificity, which is typol-
difference from the previous iteration is an ogy. An objection here might be whether type

# 2015 Pavlos Philippou 1360-2365


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adheres to the same (reductive) theoretical universe and are widely used interchangeably. To clarify
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as style, or if it manages to surpass these limitations with an example: the term hospital indicates a
and operate as a proper generative force amidst genre of buildings pertaining to a regime of particu-
deep-seated complexity. Simply put, the reply is sim- lar functional accommodation (in this case, a specific
ultaneously yes and no. The answer is affirmative if institutionalisation of healthcare and medical prac-
the matter is examined superficially; especially taking tices), whereas that of the pavilion hospital desig-
into consideration the fact that type in architecture nates a particular spectrum of typological
was historically advanced in tandem with the possibility, as Steadman carefully elaborates in
notion of style. In that context, type was generally Chapter 3. In this sense, nineteenth-century pavilion
developed to facilitate the search for timeless hospitals are typologically closer to early twentieth-
origins or to provide a stable matrix of planimetric century pavilion schools, rather than to contempor-
reasoning, or even both.4 Unfortunately, a similar ary high-rise hospitals (with which they share the
view also characterises the dominant understanding same use): as intriguingly discussed in Chapter 5
of type when the notion resurfaced in the 1960s.5 (pp. 147152). The same point is also registered,
On the other hand, the alternative and currently and in equally explicit terms, in the comparison
emerging conception of type, which is informed by (pp. 379382) between Edmund du Canes Worm-
the concept of the diagram (as we will see in what wood Scrubs Prison (187491) and Douglas
follows), has purged itself of the philosophy of Galtons Herbert Hospital, completed a decade
essences, and the limitations that philosophy earlier (figs 1, 2). Evidently the programmatic acti-
entails. But to substantiate this claim, we need first vation of spaces is interrelated with the horizon of
to delve a bit further into Steadmans book. typological possibility, but to confuse genre with
In fact the author sees his latest offering as two type seems to stem from Modernisms overt incli-
books woven into one another in alternating chap- nation to handle formal problems through func-
ters, one documenting the history of what he, rather tional concerns.
inaccurately, calls building types, the other tracing Surprisingly, Steadman mostly understands type
the development of their morphological articulation. in this way, deploying the term in the most straight-
The designation of building types is inaccurate forward of senses, to mean a classificatory unit by
since the author does not avoid the pitfalls of a which similar buildings can be grouped and enumer-
long-standing pattern of architectural thinking, ated. Thus type is understood by the author as a
whereby type is confused with genre: as, for neutral means of description without normative,
instance, in Nikolaus Pevsners influential A History idealising or instrumental overtones, and with a
of Building Types (1976).6 The distinction between focus on the material and geometrical character of
these two terms, or more precisely the lack of it, buildings themselves (p. 353). For this to be the
causes considerable confusion to the point where case, type cannot be considerably morebut not
both notions have somewhat lost their specificity anything lessthan a spatial abstraction of organis-

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Figure 1. Wormwood
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Scrubs Prison (Architect:

Edmund du Cane,
London, 187491) was
considered exemplary in
the development of the
telegraph pole (later
telephone pole) type.

Figure 2. Herbert
Hospital (Architect:
Douglas Galton,
Woolwich, London,
1865), constructed a
decade earlier than
Wormwood Scrubs
Prison, exhibits
significant typological
commonalities with that
preceding case despite
the difference of genre.

ational relationships at a schematic level, enabling

the understanding of any case as concurrently part respectively chapters 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9whilst the his-
of a group (or series) as well as an individual instance torical outlook is between 1800 to 1930 within the
therein. Notwithstanding this divergence in the con- geographical context of France, the United States
ception of type, it is still reasonable that the first and Britain. From these fascinating chapters, it is
book in Steadmans manuscript, pursued in the clear that the author is well aware that similarities
odd-numbered chapters, chronicles the histories of of usewhich bring together the case studies in
selected building genres at critical temporal junc- each of these chapterscannot provide a profound
tures. Specifically, the selected genres are: basis for architectural reflection, whether the inter-
Housing, Hospitals, Schools, Towers and Prisons ests are those of the historian-researcher or the

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designer-practitioner. To compensate for this assembles the diverse lines of investigation of the
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deficiency, the notion of built form is introduced, even-numbered chapters to deliberate on the
extending the earlier research of Lionel March (con- notion of possibility in built form: whether con-
ducted both independently and in collaboration with ditioned by spatial constraints (such as those
Leslie Martin). imposed by geometry and topology), or whether his-
Accordingly, Steadman argues that buildings can torically contingent (such as those imposed by tech-
be generally grouped and studied in two ways: nical inventions, technological developments or
either based on similarities in their use (which, as social changes).
we have seen, he terms building types), or based In terms of its qualities as a scholarly output,
on similarities of their morphology (which he calls Steadmans manuscript is commendable on several
built forms). Based on the conjecture that these levels. First, it reads as the patient outcome of
two kinds of classifications resourcefully intermingle, many years of research, rather than being an expedi-
it is a small step to the decision to organise the ent run-of-the-mill book aspiring to fulfil the insti-
manuscript in alternating chapters, enabling the tutional demands of contemporary academia.
even-numbered chapters to broaden and deepen Secondly, and quite originally, the text is
the investigations of the odd-numbered ones. Con- accompanied both by footnotes and endnotes,
sequently, chapters 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 discuss in which unambiguously distinguish necessary expla-
some detail the complex ways through which basic natory information (easily accessible as footnotes
functional demandssuch as the provision of at the bottom of the relevant page) from additional
natural ventilation, efficient access and direct sun- supportive references (assembled at the end of each
lightinfluenced the horizon of typological possi- chapter as endnotes, for those who would like to
bility in the examined genres. It follows that in embark on additional research). Thirdly, the argu-
these even-numbered chapters, the analysis is ment is supplemented by an abundance of graphic
directed toward the buildings overall massing and material that greatly surpasses the customary expec-
general configuration, rather than to the particulars tations for a book of its outlook, which would typi-
of materials, detailing, construction or experience. cally rely on the suggestive (or, at times,
Over and above these ten chapters, the manuscript inconclusive) presence of a few photographs and
commences with a concise, albeit rich, introduction drawings (usually by the original architects).
that identifies the substantive area to be surveyed, Indeed, the book deserves ample credit for its sys-
while it terminates with two concluding chapters: tematic employment of drawings, many produced
one for each book. Hence, Chapter 11 compiles by the Author himself. Systematic here refers
material from all the odd-numbered chapters to both to the fact that drawings accompany the
speculate on how building genres can be described majority of the numerous case studies, as well as
and classified, as well as how they mutateor to the drawings consistent presentation through a
even transformover time. Lastly, Chapter 12 very limited range of graphic means and scales

The Journal
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(mostly 1:300 and 1:750)thereby enabling direct three array of nine courts, in which each range is
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comparisons between examples. Furthermore, made up of three strips as before (figs 3a, b, 4).8
many case studies are also impressively analysed by For its part, morphospacea term deriving (like
means of axonometric projection, drawn by Stead- much of the authors underlying thinking) from
man, whereby schematic arrangement is fore- biologyis a mathematical/graphical method for
grounded (as opposed to the buildings trivial representing the ranges of actual and possible
particularities) enabling the inquiry into the actuality forms Typically such a representation locates
of the built form. Together, all of the above interlace forms within a coordinate system, in which the
with accessible text (even when it is technically axes correspond to the dimensional parameters
demanding), to forge a manuscript that seems that describe the forms (p. 173), derived by modu-
within the grasp of a broad range of audiences: lations of the archetypal building. That is, the arche-
either professionally engaged in the formation of typal building is a topologically defined prototype
architecture or not. whose parts undergo multiple geometrical and
Our earlier discussion of the nineteenth-century formal operations (such as, dimensioning, subtrac-
emergence of the notion of type in architecture (in tion or elimination) in order to generate a wide
relation to the notion of style) is important, not array of possible forms. With the deployment of
only in the appraisal of Steadmans contribution to unique binary codes for each of the resulting poss-
the field, but also for understating one of his manu- ible forms, Steadman is able to chart these into a
scripts major shortcomings. As already noted, even graph format, mapping both regular distributions
up to the 1960s1970s, investigations of typology as well as singular occurrences (figs 5, 6a, b, 7).
often revolved around a search for the essential Whilst there are numerous and open acknowl-
(trans-cultural and trans-historical) origins underpin- edgements of various limitations in the conception
ning any known architectural construct, in conjunc- and application of the archetypal building and mor-
tion with the development of a stable (planimetric) phospace,9 the Author still considers them to be pro-
taxonomy outlining key variants. In Steadmans ductive. On the one hand, the claim is fairly
case a similar turn occurs in his explorations of the defensible in that, over the length of the manuscript,
archetypal building and what he calls morphospace. there are many instances whereby spatial relation-
The archetypal building is an explanatory tool with ships or comparisonswhich are not self-evident
which many (although certainly not all) possible are brought into relief through these investi-
built forms may be generated.7 Although initially gations. However, even in these instances, which
explored as a topologically defined and matrix- are undeniably informative for the researcher, one
based plan consisting of seven columns and seven cannot fail to discern that the challenges (especially
rows, with a courtyard in its centre and intersecting in the usage of binary codes) and restrictions (that
middle strips of artificially lit spaces, the Author then delimit the domain of possible forms) of taking up
moves on to expand it to a more complex three-by- these investigative approaches are such that they

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Figure 3a. A are unlikely to be of any productive use for the

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topologically-defined designer. Another way of stating this is that one

and array-based plan of
could have achieved similar analytical results
seven columns and
seven rows, with a without the deployment of complex notation and
courtyard in its centre, extensive computation. On the other hand, there is
set in the x/y coordinate a more significant reservation for the overall scho-
system. The dark-grey larly merit of these investigations. This feeds back
strips are day-lit,
to the notion of type. If we have earlier agreed
whereas the light-grey
strips are artificially lit that typeas a schema of spatial organisation
spaces. The fourteen exploring serial variationoperates amidst a
strips are enumerated in domain of proper complexity, it must be clear that
sequence, first those it always and necessarily deals with a multitude of
along the x axis (1 to 7),
parameters and variables. In fact, this is the
then those aligned with
the y axis (8 to 14). primary reason why some writers consider typology
as ineluctable in the design process,10 for it
enables the reinterpretation of known solutions to
Figure 3b. An architectural problems, themselves not reducible to
exploded-isometric view simple formal relationships. From this perspective,
of an Archetypical
Steadmans strong insistence on very few and
Building on six floors,
with the same mostly bio-technical parameters (such as the
structuring and colour- above-stated demands of light, accessibility and ven-
coding as Figure 3a, but tilation) seems insufficient to flesh out the intricacies
whose plan is expanded of what is at stake.
to a matrix of three-by-
To be clear, the Author is right in suggesting that
three courtyards,
supplemented by an such investigations of these parameters reveal a lot
additional lower floor about the domain of the possible in particular
under the level of the genres (especially before the advent of technical
courtyards (the cross- and technological inventions, such as the lift, electric
hatched pattern
lights and mechanical ventilation), as well as about
indicates that
courtyards are the design processes deployed by architects in
illuminated from the given circumstances. For instance, Chapter 8 vividly
top). recreates some of the decision-making terrain
upon which towers were thought about during the
latter part of the nineteenth century and the early
part of the twentieth century in Chicago and

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Figure 4. With the

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application of two
transformational steps,
the Archetypical
Building generates the
built form of Crescent
Court (Architects:
Neville and Bagge,
New York, 1905): a) Six
floors and appropriate
strips in x and y are
chosen; b) The selected
parts are assembled
subsequent to the
erasure of the
unselected strips; c)
Axonometric projection
of the dimensioned
building for
comparison; d) Typical
Plan of Crescent Court
redrawn from: Steven
Holl, The Alphabetical
City, Pamphlet
Architecture # 5
(New York,
San Francisco, Pamphlet
Architecture Ltd and
New York. However, the point here is that whilst this lished in 1978,11 we can quickly notice how a William Stout
approach goes far, it does not go far enough. For the similar line of investigation to Steadmans is Architectural Books,
1980), p. 38.
sake of expediency, this point can be illustrated by pursued to establish critical category distinctions
turning our attention to the manuscripts first two based upon overall formal configurations and com-
chapters, whereby a number of multi-residential munal circulation systems.
types are studied. The reason why housing is con- Now if we juxtapose this with something more
sidered more appropriate for this task has to do recentsuch as Friederike Schneiders Floor Plan
with the existence of a considerable bibliography Manual Housing (originally published in 1994)12
that investigates multi-residential developments in there is a marked difference of analytical aspirations,
typological terms. If we start from Roger Sherwoods for the latter seeks to establish its criteria of classifi-
well-known Modern Housing Prototypes, first pub- cation based on what the building does at an urban

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Figure 5. Ascribing
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binary codesnumber
1 if a strip is retained,
number 0 if it is
removedto the single-
court archetype (Figure
3a), once it has been
transformed to one
example of an L-shaped
plan. The resulting 14-
digit code for this
0001111 0001111is
derived by listing the 7
digits of the x string first
which are then followed
(after a space gap) with
the 7 digits of the y

Figure 6a. An
morphospace defined
within the (x/y)
coordinate system,
whereby information
from the x string of each
binary code is plotted
on the x axis, and the y
string on the y axis. In
this way, all coded
configurations are
mapped to unique (x, y)
positions, whilst all
variants of each generic
plan fall, as shown,
within distinct
(triangular or
rectangular) zones. This
graph registers all the

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possibilities for a nine-

court archetype without
its lower floor (Figure
3b); however, the area
closest to the origin,
enclosed by the heavy
rectangle, has a
multitude of
information and is thus
shown in a distinct,
zoomed-in, graph (see
Figure 6b).

Figure 6b. The above-

mentioned part of the
morphospace drawn at
a larger scale, which is
indicated by a heavy
rectangle (closest to the
origin) in Figure 6a.

Figure 7. The
distribution of different
types of symmetry in the
zones indicated in
Figure 6b.
Arrangements with
diagonal symmetry are
found on the graphs
main diagonal, while
arrangements with
bilateral symmetry
correspond to
palindromic x or y
strings in their codes, as
shown. Arrangements
with square symmetries

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have x and y strings that (usually block) scale.13 In other words, many of the of a governmental reason that cultivates the apti-
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are both palindromes. contemporary housing publications seem to be tude for political and moral action. Thus, we might
All these symmetries are
asking, first and foremost, how is the city imagined think of the diagram as an abstracted strategic
indicated by symbols
showing the different with and constituted by multi-residential develop- tension that operates through a plurality of media
axes of symmetry, whilst ments, thereby pushing the question of the organis- (including, but not limited to, drawings, texts, sche-
the circles in the graph ation of flats, as well as the arrangement of their dules, tabular arrangements, institutional settings,
mark out 9 Board basic variables, to the secondary and tertiary regis- implemented buildings, etc.), sifting and structuring
Schools cases that are
ters. a series of potentialities for the subject in accordance
examined in Chapter 6
of the book (and, more Perhaps this difficulty stems from anotherand with a promise of the latters reformation. As a
specifically, the books finalproblem, which is that Steadman accommo- socio-political machine, the diagram can be oriented
Figure 6.28). dates socio-political pressures merely as some of towards our intellectual development and moral
the many forces challenging the formation of archi- improvement through techniques of discipline, as
tecture. While this is true to the extent that these in the case of panopticism, but also towards other
pressures are part and parcel of a composite field, ends.15
the manuscripts surveyed material has strong evi- By extension and contrast, and in line with some of
dence that it might not be entirely correct to keep the principal arguments in the recent typological lit-
them on equal footing as other, more trivial, press- erature,16 diagrams inevitably underwrite typologies
ures. For instance, if we focus on chapters 9 and in a very consequential way. It is in this sense that
10examining Prisons and Penitentiariesthere Steadmans interest in genres of buildings, which
are abundant references14 to suggest that, are animated by common diagrams, intersects with
between the last few decades of the eighteenth their typologies. Put differently, architecture is cease-
century and the first few decades of the nineteenth lessly promblematised not just for how we build our
century, the modern prison was invented, not by the cities, but also for how the latter are governed. This is
advent of incarceration but with the latters insti- what was earlier hinted at as a diagrammatically
tutional transformation. If we follow Foucaults informed understanding of type. Given that Stead-
salient Discipline and Punish, the emergence of this man is rather inattentive to the deep-seated com-
transformation is brought about by panopticism plexity of type and somewhat indifferent to the
which Foucault exposes as a diagram. notion of the diagram, it is hardly surprising that he
Evidently, diagrams in this context surpass those is critical of Foucaults work,17 notwithstanding
schematic graphic abstractions that are too easily Evanss clues indicating the opposite.18 Similarly,
being ascribed the label in architecture today. and returning to an earlier example, in the chapters
Here, the diagram is understood as problematising investigating multi-residential projects,19 there is
an always already emergent (human) subjectivity; limited conception of how much the architecture of
one that is generated at the shifting intersection of housing evolved in conjunction with the emergence
the object of the human sciences and the subject of the nuclear familyor, better, the domestic

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diagram.20 Perhaps these difficulties stem from favour of a conceptualisation of both continuities and
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placing too much emphasis on a conception of ruptures.

type as an instrument of analysis and classification 2. An example of the former is: Dan Cruickshank, ed.;
in the pursuit of a critical reflective terrain, rather Andrew Saint, Peter Blundell Jones, Kenneth Framp-
ton, consultant eds; Fleur Richards, assistant ed.; Sir
than as an innate reasoning in architecture and its
Banister Fletcher, originator, Sir Banister Fletchers A
design, or decision-making, processes. In spite of
History of Architecture, Twentieth Edition (Oxford,
these scruples, Steadmans latest offering is certainly
Architectural Press, 2001; first published, 1996). An
an important bibliographical reference for opening example of the latter is: Charles Jencks, The Story of
up multiple and significant avenues of inquiry, Post-Modernism: Five Decades of the Ironic, Iconic
whilst accomplishing this through numerous case and Critical in Architecture (London, John Wiley &
studies, themselves investigated in both textual and Sons, 2011).
graphic terms. In doing so, it serves as an anchoring 3. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge
for and an invitation to pursue further research in (London, Routledge Classics, 2003); originally pub-
terms of how architecture could and should contrib- lished as L Archologie du Savoir (Paris, ditions Galli-
ute to the urban beyond stylistic impulses. mard, 1969).
4. As evident in the work of Heinrich Hbsch and Gott-
fried Semper as well as Antoine-Chrysostome Quatre-
Illustrations mre de Quincy, Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand and
Julien David Le Roy.
All the illustrations in this review are taken from
5. A strong contribution to the re-emergence of type at
Building Types and Built Forms, with the permission
this time was made by Giulio Carlo Argan and his
of the Author.
circle, especially after the publication of the Argans
essay On the Typology of Architecture, originally
Pavlos Philippou published in 1962: English translation, Architectural
J+A Philippou Architects and Engineers, Nicosia Design, 33, (December, 1963), pp. 5645. Broadly
Cyprus speaking, in the writings of the 1960s1970s
Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia; there are three dominant ways in which type
Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus was understood: namely, as a geometric taxonomy,
(Authors e-mail address: pavlos.philippou@ a signifying dimension, or a form/function arrangement.
6. Nikolaus Pevsner, A History of Building Types (London,
Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1976).
Notes and references 7. P. 107.
1. This is not the case for those works that set out to 8. The initial version is developed in pp. 100104, the
explore the histories (in the plural) of the field, latter in pp. 105113.
whereby a more intricate historical practice seeks to 9. For the archetypal building, for instance, see pp. 107,
avoid grand narratives and forceful teleology in 110 (including Note 18), as well as various moments

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in Chapter 12. Examples for the notion of morpho- and Punish; The Birth of the Prison (New York, Vintage
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space are in pp. 173 (Note viii) and 189. Books. 1995).
10. For instance, Alan Colquhoun, Typology and Design 15. For instance, other diagrams are of the neighbour-
Method, in Essays in Architectural Criticism; hood, the domestic and the cultural.
Modern Architecture and Historical Change (Opposi- 16. Lawrence F. Barth, The Complication of Type, in, Christo-
tions Books. Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, pher C. M. Lee, Sam Jacoby, eds, Typological Formations;
1991). Renewable Building Types and the City (London, Architec-
11. Roger Sherwood, Modern Housing Prototypes (Cam- tural Association Publications, 2007), pp. 158164.
bridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1978). 17. This occurs in a few instances, for example in Note xiv,
12. Friederike Schneider, ed., Floor Plan Manual Housing, p. 343.
Third, Revised and Expanded Edition, with a New 18. As paraphrased by Steadman (p. 379), Evans
Preface by Oliver Heckmann (Basel, Boston, Berlin, Bir- suggested that Jeremy Benthams Panopticon was
khauser, 2004; first published, 1994.) more a contraption than a building.
13. This review of the literature of multi-residential housing 19. This also occurs in the concluding chapters of the pub-
has benefited from a private conversation with Tarsha lication: for instance, p. 378.
Finney. 20. This argument is teased out in Michel Foucault, The
14. Two of the foremost references on the subject are: History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction
Robin Evans, The Fabrication of Virtue. English Prison (New York, Vintage Books Edition, 1990), as well
Architecture 17501840 (Cambridge, Cambridge as in Jacques Donzelot, The Policing of Families (Balti-
University Press, 1982) and Michel Foucault, Discipline more, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).