Typological Matters


Discourse, 25 June 2021

An inventory of typologies collected as study samples in my dissertation

The term ‘typology’ in my school is often referred to a building program: a community center, a museum, a church, an apartment, and so on. In the syllabus, this so-called ‘typology’, apart from the selected site, dominate our design brief and determine many design entails later. But it certainly means more than this.

I have been overlooked the definition of typology, until the recent qualitative research I’ve completed which revolves around the typological and analogical analysis largely hinged on The Architecture of The City by Aldo Rossi. (A highly interpretive and theoretical discourse positioned in the context of New Villages in Malaysia, that could be another sharing in my future post) I’ve proceeded into a deeper insight regarding the meaning of ‘typology’, and perhaps to me personally, it was the biggest lesson learned from this dissertation and its preparation process.

Typology, in many of the past architectural references and literature, is described as an irreducible element of architecture, which governs the intrinsic design regardless of any form and function. In many cases, it is usually incomprehensible, enigmatic yet substantial.

During my earlier days in the school, we are often being requested to do precedent studies in the design studio courses, corresponding to the ‘typology’ of the building. In example, we took Guggenheim Museum, National Museum of Malaysia or maybe other renowned museum as precedent, when designing a local ethnic museum for Baba-Nyonya. Though they are all embody partial similarity in their backbone of main building program (they all archive, exhibit artefacts and allow visitation), yet they are, nonetheless, different in many ways in their typological value. The Guggenheim Museum is a deliberate monument, portray a more universalistic, liberal, and democratic accent. Whereas the National Museum of Malaysia represent a nationalistic history and it is institutionally established. They are not laterally the similar ‘museum’ to the Baba-Nyonya Museum, which is rather dialectic and focus solely on the local front instead. In results, the typologies of them ended up totally different due to their nature instead of mere building programs.

Nevertheless, I think the building program still play a significant position to perceive the architecture typology. A religious building could be a good demonstration here: it is fundamentally a place for worship, yet it can be turned into a museum, café, dormitory, or even brothel as the time changes and its relevance becomes dependent to the community demands, and its typology is shifted while being inhabited through ages and new dwellers and activities. This is where a new typology is breed, yet its old typology does not disappear but being inherited into the new one. Form and function are considered hyper-ephemeral as time and space too, but the typology of architecture, though can be changed and adapted, it transcends and persisted as long as the building remained.

To conclude that, architecture typology is seen as a principle- logical, suggestive, and autonomous. Here, typology as the transcendent notion of model, which fundamentally inherits the memory and traces within, connected to the multiplex events of its context instead.

Ps: This piece of writing is completed as I found the common fallacy when the schools’ and the students’ response to the brief in the beginning of a design process. Typology is supposed to start with a vigorous sense of self-consciousness in design. Either we have a strong, precise reference to a prevailed typology of precedents, or we rethink the configuration for a new typology address the latent issue, the last thing we should do is just encapsulate all the programs in the brief to an empty shell, or the so-called ‘concept’ (Further refer to my previous post on Context, Concept, Content). After all, the lack of self-awareness and critical approach but simply completing task and requirements will defeat the purpose of learning.

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