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Changing building typologies: The typological question and the formal basis of architecture

Daniel Koch


The call for this themed issue formulates an interesting proposition, one that is a common conception – that people’s behaviour and, accordingly, the use of buildings is changing – and that this leads to the emer- gence of new building typologies. More specifically, it claims that ‘the reality of what is happening inside buildings nowadays is much more complex, diverse and multi-layered than a single word can describe.’ This paper intends to challenge the word ‘nowadays’, which places this situation as something historically unique and special. It will do this in order to conclude with a discussion of theory of analysing architecture.

The first question to be examined is historical. While it may be true that building use is currently changing rapidly, it is equally true that this has happened before. Some of the most common ‘types’ are in fact under constant change, and this will be illustrated through the ‘shop’ and the ‘home’, concluded by a discussion on the perception of rapid change and historical stability as such. It will be suggested that this is partially embedded in a typological process. The second question is theoretical. It will be argued that the very idea of changing and more flexible use is tied to an idea of architecture with its roots in modernity, where ‘use’ became a central question to plan for, along with the development of a specific notion of function that was intimately connected to the notion of type. Many earlier ‘types’ were not as much use-adapted as ‘appropriate types’ for a range of reasons, sometimes even contrary to ‘use’. This discussion will explore the interdependency between conceptions of type and perceptions of the theoretical, disciplinary, and practical bases of architecture.

Following this, the paper will conclude by drawing the strands together to discuss architectural analysis and the risks and potentials of typology as an analytical operation.


Architecture, typology, space syntax, spatial analysis, analytic theory

Full Text: JOSS_2014_P168-189