Month: March 2014

03/31: Moneo on Type

Rafael Moneo came to PennDesign to speak this evening, and I’m taking the opportunity to show two projects of his that I had the chance to visit while in Spain, in addition to a short response I penned to his essay On Typology.

Rafael Moneo’s On Typology takes a direct, thorough, and academic approach to a discussion on type in architecture. Type, as an idea or a concept, has been and will continue to be redefined by each generation. “What then is type? It can most simply be defined as a concept which describes a group of objects characterized by the same formal structure.” It is a means of organization and understanding an otherwise incomprehensible collection of items. “The world of objects created by architecture is not only described by types, it is also produced through them.” Type allows an architect to understand and define parameters of a design problem, to challenge this understanding and these parameters, and then create new more appropriate ones. Thus the definition and use of type is integral to the discipline of architecture. This definition of ‘type’ as a tool meant to be bent and tested suggests to Moneo that ‘type’ cannot be a categorically limiting influence. Type allows us to better understand buildings and forms by simplifying and qualifying aspects of buildings and forms. This frees us to further explore and analysis an existing or proposed building or set of buildings. Moneo specifies that “type is … open to change … a recognition of the possibility of change.” A ‘Type’ frames comparisons which illustrate, imply or suggest change between to items/objects/buildings, thus it becomes a way of denying the past, as well as a way of looking at the future.” For other theorists, ‘type’ had different meanings and purposes. For Quatremere de Quincy, type helped decode history, creating a permanent link between needs and architectural creation. “Type expressed the permanence, in the single and unique object, of features which connected it with the past.” This use of type as analysis is in contrast to someone like J.N.L. Durand, who is interested in type as a tool for composition. For modern architects, type “meant immobility, a set of restrictions imposed on the creator.” Type refered to prototype, and every type became the model for countless more mass produced objects or buildings. A lack of understanding of type in the urban scale, replaced by “typological view” results in the discipline losing the understanding of the city as something growing “by the successive addition of single elements, each with its own integrity… Typological research today merely results in the production of images.” By the time post modernists redefined ‘type’ it became synonymous with ‘image’ and lost much of its meaning and power.

Moneo completed Spain’s National Museum of Roman Art in 1985 in Merida, Spain. The main gallery space sits one floor above the basement, which is an archaeological site. (first two images from

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In San Sebastian he designed the Kursaal Congress Center, an exhibition hall and auditorium.

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03/30: Lincoln Highway



A month ago I drove back to Philly from New Hope, PA by way of US Route 1, the Lincoln Highway. The route went from winding rural road to a brief stretch of I-95 before Route 1 takes you into the long stretch of Northeast Philly. At some point the expressway gives way to Roosevelt Boulevard, seemingly a quarter mile wide with three grassy medians separating 12 lanes of traffic (to clarify, this stretch of road is both the Lincoln Highway and Roosevelt Blvd). This transition from rural to urban is relatively gradual, with shopping malls serving as ever more frequent mile markers, replaced by blocks of rowhouses by the time you pass over Frankford Creek. The density is there, but the expressway traffic patterns interrupting city grid give trip a decidedly suburban feel. The entire Broad St to Schuylkill stretch is on-ramps, overpasses and underpasses. (Photo credits to Jia Kim, map credit to google)

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03/29: Shahid Kabir

While in Bangladesh earlier this month, the group I was apart of had the chance to see the opening of Shahid Kabir’s I Bow My Head to You in Deep Obeisancean art show at the Bengal Gallery in Dhaka. One room held smaller sketches and watercolors, while the main gallery space held larger intimate portraits and landscapes. One of my favorites shows a horizon dotted with brick factory chimneys darkening the sky over the countryside.

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03/28: Choisy Axon

A brief look at a continued idea. I had the privilege of giving a brief presentation about my thoughts on void city on Tuesday. Here are a few photos (some repeats) of Ghardaia, with a sketch of the public void. One quick reference to make is that of Auguste Choisy,  known for his axonometric views taken from the ground up. The effect is a bit alienating in that is implies looking through the ground plane, yet humanizing in that it looks up at the building the same way a person inhabiting the space would.

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03/27: Memory of Brick

A year ago, while designing an archive for digital materials, I thought about building materials and their respective forms of memory. Some metals rust, and there are many examples of architects exploiting corten steel or copper patinas to let a building age in dramatic fashion.Concrete ages in a decidedly less elegant manner (although Snohetta did a beautiful job with the Karmoy Fishing Museum). I am a fan of brick’s ability to remember, and how often people ignore this fact and fill in windows and doors as if they were never there. But the brick knows. And it tells. It also leaves hints as to what used to be, a perfect section imprinted on its neighbor. All that remains is the ghost of building past.

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03/26: Asheville Art Deco

Inspired by yesterday’s art deco, here are a few photos of Asheville, North Carolina from a trip I took there in August 2012.

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One building of interest was Grove Arcade, a public market which opened in 1929 and was renovated in 2002. In the Spring of 2012 I took two very different classes which both touched upon shopping and places of public commerce. Here was part of a lecture “Learning from Las Vegas or Junk Space” from Helen Furjan.

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03/25: Uncle Patrick

My Uncle Patrick Sokas passed away two years ago to the day. His passing was both sudden and unexpected, but from it came one of the most interesting and beautiful acts of tribute and remembrance in the form of Found Patrick. My aunt, Patrick’s sister Regina embarked on a journey of collecting my uncle’s written work (he was brilliant, he got through college in a year and worked as a journalist before going to medical school and becoming a psychiatrist) and inviting writers and poets to create ‘found poetry‘ out of the writings. The result is a wonderful collection of original writing, found poetry and artwork. She documented the process a bit here, (and her daily gratitude blog from 2012 helped inspire this website) so for many reasons I find myself grateful for her.

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I remember feeling cheated by his passing. He was brilliant and witty and the older I got the more I understood and appreciated that fact. Most of my childhood was spent not quite understanding why all the grown ups were laughing. Sunday afternoons sometimes involved the crossword puzzle, which would start with me and my sister picking up the low hanging fruit and would end up, invariably, in Uncle Patrick’s hands to tackle the tricky clues. At some point a few years back I remember him asking me what my favorite style of architecture was. I lied, and told him what he wanted to hear (art deco). “Ah, a man after my own heart.” (Since then I found myself appreciating art deco more and more.) He went to medical school here in Philadelphia and particularly admired 30th St Station, so I made a quick pilgrimage there today in his honor.

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