A Typology of Knowledges

This studio will reconsider the types and spaces of institutions that are dedicated to the classification and transmission of knowledge—schools of architecture, libraries, and museums—and imagine how they can improve not only the society at large, but also their neighborhoods, at different scales and in different ways.

In order to improve their efficiency, the architecture of schools, libraries, and museum are often designed as enclosed spaces, metaphorically huge receptacles to protect knowledge and prove its value: their types usually appear as kinds of secular sanctuaries. Consequently, the buildings usually do not activate public space or favor integration of their main function with other ones. We shall consider how we might modify these types to allow them to offer more to the public space by transforming them into commons that engage more than their typical users. We will attempt to show how architectural form is not led only by the personal taste of the architect, but can have specific meaning on an aesthetic level, but also on a social and political one, even in our time when no common architectural language exists.

Typology is usually described, as Aldo Rossi did, through its permanent dimension. We will go beyond this idée reçue and explore how types are also there to be rethought and mixed. To do so, we shall explore the ways that typology can be a tool for invention and not only conservative variation.

The first two weeks of the semester are dedicated to description, and this research will lead to a series of original drawings of different scales and types, from overall plans to construction details. The three buildings that we shall look at as matrixes (i.e., buildings that have a large offspring) include: the Dulwich Gallery—an enfilade—by John Soane, the Bauakademie—a courtyard—by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and the main room of the French National Library—a field—by Henri Labrouste. These buildings were, more or less, firsts in each of their own categories, and link the issues of typology, composition, space, and construction. At the start of the term, a series of lectures will give students conceptual and practical tools and a system of references that will help them to design an achieved tectonic piece of architecture. These lectures will address the issue of typology as seen through different authors, construction in relationship to space and materiality, the ways that history can be involved in contemporary creation, and the commons. This studio aims to explore the ability of typology to create an inventive architecture that is able to address contemporary issues while still being linked to history. The final rendering will include a short but precise series of plans and sections, an inner view—a photograph of a large-scale model—and a view expressing the commons dimension of the project. Projects will be evaluated on their inner coherence as tectonic objects in relation to the initial interests of students and goals of the studio.



This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Eric Lapierre will be in residence Thursday and Friday bi-weekly: August 29 and 30; September 12, 13, 26, 27; October 24, 25, 31; November 1, 7, 8, 21, 22; December 5, 6, and for final reviews.

The instructor will also be available via Skype to account for “off week” missed time. 

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