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 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3171055)
In San Sebastian he designed the Kursaal Congress Center, an exhibition hall and auditorium.