Teased over the apparent lack of historical perspective in OMA’s proposal for the extension of the Dutch Parliament (1978), Rem Koolhaas quipped that the brief called for an auditorium of 20,000 seats, for which requirement \”there are no typologies\”. Thirty-five years on, the nineteenth century conceit that spaces ought to be planned according to some blueprint or type is, give or take the odd inevitable revival, almost universally extinct. In tandem with a free-for-all distrust of design discourse, the scale, variegation, and programmatic ‘monstrosities’ called for in briefs worldwide have turned the idea of a common repository ordained by similarities and differences eventually merging into accepted practice, into a thing of the past.
Or have they? Seemingly unrelated developments have recently imbued that improbable concept with a new lease of life. For one, we have the pressures of urbanisation in places like China, where the prospect of housing 4,000 tenants into a single dwelling block has reliably reawakened the historicist appeal to architectural type which held sway over Europeans at the height of their own -local- post-war boom (in both instances, quantity seems to be the culprit). And then there is the black-swan event of parametric digital design. By its very nature -regardless of who’s doing it or what the outcome looks like- parametric design will foster variation, variegation, and versioning. It will, in other words, create its own types. But the similarities end there. Unlike the figurative and conspicuous types of the past, the new types are abstract and invisible. They do not recombine building parts and figures to make new projects, as the old types did, but calibrate relationships, expressed for the sake of convenience in mathematical or computational terms.
The studio will systematically explore the exhilarating intersections of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ concept of typology to produce carefully calibrated programmatic and architectural proposals on a choice of urban sites across western Europe. A combination of group effort and individual design theses will eventually affirm the robustness and relevance of the new.
George Legendre will be in residence on the following dates: January 23, 27 and 28, February 10, 11, 24 and 25, March 17 and 18, April 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, and May 5 and 6. Studio trip to Chicago will take place over 4 days, exact dates TBD.