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Tag "typology"

Housing projects are an architects everyday business. Housing is one of the really big architectural challenges as it more than many other tasks directly represents an idea of being and enabling to unfold and arrange. The society and social implication of architecture is the most direct while designing how the individuals life their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, or especially so, housing is heavily influenced by trends and norms. It has been over the last century and continues to be a play ball of the latest fashion. It does however, also reflect as much as any other fashion niche represent retrospectively the believes and values of each area.

For those and many other reasons this is a great topic for a publication. How to organise an house is still the chalenge mainly because it is so deeply embedded in culture and trends. There is never the final solution to be found it always has to be a tailored proposal, in the wider sense.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 203, Torre Blancas, Sáenz de Oiza, 1969.

The 2011 Birkhauser Floor Plan Manual Housing is the 4th revised and expanded edition of the publication that has already quite some tradition. The first edition was published back in 1994. For the fourth edition the editor Friederike Schneider is joined by Oliver Heckmann as additional editor.

The publication is organised as an atlas of housing floor plans drawn from a pool of amazing projects. The content is organised in categories roughly describing the type of buildings they serve. THese include Block Edge, Urban Infill, Corner Building, Firewall Building, Solitair, Linear Block / Superblock, Apartment Tower, Terraced Complex, Space-Enclosing Structure, Residential Complex / Housing Estate, Detached House, Duplex, Row House.

Even though I am not suer what exactly a Space-Enclosing Structure is the topics seem to have some practical meaning and can be seen as helpful guiding system.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 129, House Kauf, Peter Markli, 1989.

Each example is documented over a spread with a short descriptive text introduced and documented with one or two outside photographs. There is a whole building section, a plan of the situation the building is situated in, a icon serving as an diagram of the plan of a single housing unit and a table summarising the key characteristics such a number of units, area per user, building dimensions and details such a parking solution and so on. The main element of course are the floor plans which are shown as floor plans of the building as well as often in detail per unit.

The editors have put in a lot of effort to accomodate for each example the building specific characteristics. For this each representation is slightly different and the elements might be more prominent or an additional section is presented to clearly communicate how this particular example is organised across different levels.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Book cover.

THe publication is very similar to the Typology+, reviewed HERE on urbanTick, by the same publisher. However the Manual is more the technical publication entirely (beside the bright orange) in black and white focusing on the organisation and the actual floor plan, where Typology+ presents the housing project as a building and in colour. They serve different purposes and therefore can happily, with overlaps, coexist.

The manual is something for everyone. As indicated in the introduction floor plans and housing organisation are more than only an architecture task, this is architecture it self and tell the story of a social context they are built for as well as out of. As such the book can be read in many different way under different viewpoints and lights. In this context the proposed organisation is only one of many possibilities and clearly supports the atlas aspect of the publication, but you might find your own way through the 335 pages strong oversize book and it will definitely give joy on that quest.

Schneider, F. & Heckmann, O., 2011. Floor Plan Manual Housing 4th ed., Basel: Birkhäuser.

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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.

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Not only since the dawn of the financial crisis are the high street and office spaces under pressure. Flexible working schemes and online shopping also pull revenue out of these traditional markets. As a result, especially with shops the small and independent units are disappearing and big chains fill the city centres. However, on the fringes, more and more empty units, both business and retail are left unused.

The architecture in many of these buildings has been rather specific and very clear in its typology about the usage. A shop is a shop and an office building is an office building. But what to do with them if they are empty? They leave massive holes in the urban fabric, simple because they are under used or unused.

Image taken from urbanTick on flickr / Section of ‘Living Cubes’ by Jan Conradi and Jens Ullersperger.

Together with the idea of the functional city, these usages have established themselves in central city locations taking over and pushing out any other use, including living. As a result most western cities have no, or very little mixed usage in central city locations.

The decline in shops and office needs could be a chance to reestablish pockets of housing in these location in order to reclaim the city centre also as a place for housing. However the main chalenges are the sustainable and typological adaptations of a mono functional area. How to live in an office block?

In an international student competition this question was addressed. The results are summarised in the JOVIS publication ‘Urban Living’ and give an overview of ideas and concepts to reuse office buildings and develop innovative urban housing concepts.

The competition was sponsored by the ‘Immobilienforum Frankfurt’ as they have realised the decline as well as the potential. At the time they estimated, that across Germany in the seven most important business locations (Berlin, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart) more than 10% of office space in prime locations are unused. In cooperation with the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt (DAM) the international competition was launched in 2007.


Image taken from urbanTick on flickr / Top: Visualisation of staircase and gangways of ‘Canyon Connection’ by Jan Becker. Bottom: Floor plan first floor of ‘Canyon Connection’ by Jan Becker.

The publication showcases 46 projects of great variety, all based on existing office building structures being transformed into housing. As you would expect there is the bare concrete 80ies office block with the dominant structural facade towering over the rest of the street now turning into a gentle and soft host for a variety of living concepts.

The projects show an impressive variety of ways of living. The students have really put some thought into, not only transforming the existing structure but also ways of live and organisation of living. There are a lot of merging activities, working and sleeping overlaps as well as privat and semi public to public space are here conceptually possible in the same space. Often these solutions imply a temporal separation. In this sense time is added as an additional dimension to organisation of living and activity.

Overall concepts fo course bring in the normal suspects, nomade living, nested units, communal concepts, mobile units, green living and so on. However, most of them have a unique twist to it, probably not least because of the unique setting.

It is a great task for students to be challenged by the constraints of such a 80ies monster, but also a very interesting contribution to a ongoing urban discussion. Eventually this scenario will become reality and the vast number of these structures is a chalenge of change.

Image taken from urbanTick on flickr / Urban Living Book Cover, visualisation of the project ‘Living Cubes’ by Jan Conradi and Jens Ullersperger

Diniawarie, D., 2009. Urban Living: Visionen neuen Wohnens Bilingual., Berlin: Jovis.

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