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— urbantick

Book – Typology+ an Atlas

Categorisation of architecture into different groups with similar characteristics is something invented in the seventies, maybe a bit earlier. Together with the interest in architecture of sociologists the type of building gained importance.

One of the important figures in this field is the Swiss architect Michael Alter who developed a platform for the discussions around typology in architecture in the context of the Architecture School in Basel. With a series of Publications, the most important one being ‘Soglio’, a structured analysis of types aso in a historical context was established.

Birkhauser has published this ‘Typology+: Innovative Residential Architecture‘ atlas of new housing projects, but in a way continues this tradition of looking closely, carefully at architecture and grouping similar layouts together. The publication focuses on housing, but draws on examples from around the world.

Rondo Apartments
Image taken from Swiss-Architects / The staircase in the building Rondo Apartments in Zuerich by Graber Pulver Architekten. It features in the category access with the impressive staircase a la Harry Potter.

The first thing you’ll notice is the quality of the images. In fact the quality of the book design as a whole, but the photographs are really awesome here. It is all about documenting buildings, but most images have more to them. And secondly the quality of the drawings and plans used in the book to describe each project are really my favourites. The book uses the most simple line plans leaving a lot of space to read the rooms and the flow of spaces in each project. Very abstract it is, but does however, still represent the pure architecture and is not some kind of diagram. This of course is necessary in this context to understand the typology.

The presented examples are organised in categories. They are not really types as such, but topics showcasing different solutions. Each group is loosely based on a building elements and goes with an introduction essay outlining the wider context and providing examples from history. The groups are: access, living space, exterior space and volume.

It is a pity really that the index is not linked to the content of the book. THe authors have made some extensive effort to group the documented projects. The extensive sorting list looks at different elements of the building such as Acces, Units, Volume, Natural Light and so on and classifies every project in relation to this. It does this however, only by name of the building and architect, but does not provide page number to jump to the project and compare a few plans.

De Eekenhof
Image taken from UrbaRama / Project De Eekenhof Housing Complex in Enschede by Claus en Kaan Architecten. It features in the category exterior spaces with its characteristic balconies.

A similar book was discussed earlier on the blog as part of the 2010 Christmas Book List, the Actar publication ‘Total Housing‘. Both books classify housing projects, however they have a different focus.

This Birkhauser Publication is a extremely beautiful book with plenty of examples. It i not just for the typology seeker, but also doubles up as an atlas of housing projects of the past ten years. In this sense every architect should have this publication as a reference book, on one hand for housing projects and of cours building typologies and on the other hand as a guide for simplicity and clarity. There is more to representation than covering all the related topics, it has to be organised and the representation has to be clear but include emotion. This book manages to excite you with projects and documentation, but at the same time calm you down with a clear and fascinating layout. Especially the plans are my favourites and definitely can be traced back to Michael Alders efforts to develop the clear representation for typology.

Image taken from alejahandlowa / Book cover.

Ebner, P. et al. eds., 2010. Typology +: Innovative Residential Architecture, Basel: Birkhauser.