1 The development of the ‘Idea’ of Type
2 Durand: the systematisation of architectural knowledge and procedural differentiation
3 Seriality, Deep Structure and the Diagram
4 Dominant Types and the Ideas of the City
5 Singapore: Dominant Types and the Asian City of Architectural Modernism
Christopher C.M Lee is the co-founder and principal of Serie Architects . He graduated with the AA Diploma (Hons) and is the co-director of the AA Projective Cities Programme. He previously taught at the AA in Histories and Theories Studies (2009–10) and was the Unit Master for Diploma School (Unit 6, 2004–09) and Intermediate School (Unit 2, 2002–04).
This dissertation attempts to rethink the relevance and instrumentality of typology for the contemporary city. The thesis proposes that typological reasoning and experimentation, or working projectively in series, will enable the re-engagement of architecture with the city in a critical and inventive manner. This will entail the renewed understanding of typology and the repositioning of type as a primary element in understanding and envisioning the city; a medium that allows one to draw on its pliability as a constituent part of the city and its effectiveness as a medium for channelling the disciplinary knowledge of the architect. Both of these issues hinge on the ability of type to act as a flexible instrument of control and its potential to derive and propose ideas from and for the city. This also proposes that, beyond the issue of control, the gap between the translations from architecture to the city and vice versa is a fertile ground on which ideas for architecture and the city can be discovered.
This proposition lies firstly in the possibility of bringing together the two different [and often opposing] understanding of type – type as Idea and type as Model - and to renew its relevance as an instrumental tool in bridging the scales between architecture and the contemporary city. It also proposes that the visions of the city are produced today via dominant types.
Singapore will be used as a case study to exemplify the utilization of the dominant type to figure forth an idea of the city. This idea is not fixed nor is it a universal ideal. It is contingent and evolves with the regimes of power and is therefore an evolving political project – a manifestation of political forces. An understanding of dominant types in the context of a globalized architectural production will centre on the discussion of seriality as a shared disciplinary knowledge, a common currency, no longer unique to a geographical context but mutates and follows the logics of flexible accumulation. Unlike the ‘urban artifacts’ associated with the historical city, the dominant types here arose from the conditions of tabula rasa. As the paradigmatic Asian city of modern architecture, Singapore will be understood through two dominant types – the high-rise and podium. The ‘success’ of the city state in utilizing the city and its architecture as a political project has also evolved a condition where the city can be seen as a laboratory for a peculiar archetypal Asian urbanism that is now being exported to other cities in China and India.