Identity and Difference: Annuated Civic Typologies

This term we will revisit a theme we first explored in the option studios Block Blob Mat Slab Slat (2015) and—to a lesser extent— Intuition and the Machine (2020).  The theme is architectural typology, i.e. the nineteenth century conceit that spaces ought to be planned according to some common blueprint, or type.

Our working assumption this term will be that it is unwise to decry it as obsolete when demand for it outside the narrow premises of theoretical speculation continues unabated. 

A recent case in point is the challenge set out by Reimagining Railway Stations: Connecting Communities, an international architectural competition launched in 2020 by British Network Rail for the rebuilding of 2000 ‘small to medium’ stations set across a wide range of urban and rural contexts in the United Kingdom. Reimagining Railway Stations constitutes as direct an appeal to the classic understanding of the term as it is possible to (re)imagine in 2023.  This semester, we propose to revisit type from the ‘traditional’ angles set out in this competition, i.e. as a potential framework for the collection of individual buildings, as a vector of tectonic integration, and a symbol of civic life.

BRIEF AND SITES: Using the competition brief as a guide, we will focus on a collection of nine building interventions made possible by a shared framework, to be freely defined by each participant. We have curated a selection of nine sites with a footprint between 7m2 and 45m2, all of them functional rail hubs. Our selection includes a challenging variety of existing configurations, both architectural and topographic. Some sites have virtually no amenities other than an automated ticket machine, while others double up as heritage-listed rail museums, drawing thousands of British train enthusiasts every year.

Our key theoretical concern will be the problem of the Collection. We will interrogate it from a theoretical and practical point of view.

The design approach is completely open.