Type-ism. Architecture and Type.

18Sep12

Type

CHRISTOPHER C.M. LEE ⋅ AUGUST 16, 2011

The word ‘type’ comes from the Greek word typos which means ‘model, matrix, impression, mould, mark, figure in relief, original form’ and from the Latin word typuswhich means ‘figure, image, form, kind’.

Common use
The common understanding of ‘type’ refers to an object or artifact that belongs to a class or group that brings together others with similar attributes. In architecture, ‘type’ is commonly understood as buildings grouped by their use, that is schools, hospitals, prisons, churches and so on.[1] However, this understanding is limiting as the use of a building has shown to be independent from its building and evolves in time. A warehouse can be turned into apartments, and a Georgian terrace into a school. What this means is that to understand ‘type’ via use tells us little about the shared characteristics and traits of the artifacts or objects that belong to the group in question, hence impeding against the knowledge that could have been otherwise acquired.

Type’ as Model (Eidolon)
When ‘type’ is understood (solely) as model, it refers to an irreducible element, object or artifact, that can be further varied (as a copy) in the process of artistic creation or design. For Quatremère de Quincy, ‘The model, understood in the sense of practical execution, is an object that should be repeated as it is; contrariwise, the ‘type’ is an object after which each artist can conceive works that bear no resemblance to each other. All is precise and given when it comes to the model, while all is more or less vague when it comes to the ‘type’.

Typology
The suffix –ology of ‘typology’ comes from the Greek logos, which means ‘a discourse, treatise, theory or science’. Thus ‘‘typology’ is the discourse, theory, treatise (method) or science of ‘type’. ‘Typology’ is not the opposite of topology. This false opposition is often made to contrast the processes of formal differentiation in architecture. The former is characterised as a combinatory process resulting in discontinuous differentiated forms whilst the latter produces a continuously differentiated form. ‘Type’ and ‘typology’ as defined above is not concerned with the smoothness or continuities of formal differentiation and thus to pose it as the opposite of topology is a folly.

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