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TOPOLOGY & TYPOLOGY Towards the Contemporarism

What is contemporary architecture? The word “contemporary” means something that is existing at present time. In architecture, Modernism is a very specific vocabulary that can define a specific language for a building. Modernism is not limited to architecture that was built in the modern period, but rather implies an architecture that follows a certain vocabulary of the modernist language in any period of time. Then, how can we define contemporary architecture? If we define it in a chronological way, any project that is built in the present will be considered contemporary architecture, and at the same time, it will not be a contemporary project once time passes. There is no longer a taxonomy in architecture, because anything that is built in the present just becomes contemporary architecture. However, just as we define modernism, perhaps there is a way of defining contemporarism based on a certain vocabulary, and eventually, only a certain type of project will fit into the category of contemporarism. Types of Architecture Discussions of typology in architectural field began in the mid-eighteenth century when Marc-Antonie (Abbe) Laugier wrote about fundamentals of architecture with the illustration of a primitive hut in his essay Essai sure l’architecture (Essay on Architecture), and continues on through Quatremere de Quincy who used the term “type” in Encyclopedie

Methodique taking Laugier’s argument as background. Anthony Vidler defines this discourse of typology that emerged through Enlightenment movement as the first typology, and it also includes J. N. L Durand’s discourse that was developed in the similar period. Durand’s work gave a possibilities of various types of architecture through combinations of those types, which became more autonomous architecture than an architecture that rooted to tradition. Since his functional way of classification, the way how he constructed typology influenced significantly to the modern architecture that was developed toward rationalism and functionalism. Perhaps, the most significant step in the discourse of Typology was made in the Modern era by Le Corbusier, which Vidler defines as the second typology. Unlike theoretical arguments in previous period, architects in the Modern period had to deal with a sudden need of large amounts of construction. Hence, it was natural to have more typological discussions that responded to this condition of massive amounts of construction happening at once. Typology was no longer an analysis of existing traditional buildings nor buildings rooted from history, but rather a new way of understanding architecture more systematically so that it can accommodate the need of mass construction. With the Dom-ino system, Le Corbusier simply explained how a Modern architecture can be systematized and built massively and functionally. Although receiving many criticism, what he argued was that this functional system should be addressed as a type so that there is more freedom in plan and facade. In the late 1960s, the third typology, as Vidler described, was discussed and developed in the field mainly among Neo-Rationalist architects. As with most of the post-modern period discourses, the third typology also criticized the study of typology in modern era that attempted to separate itself from history. The third typology focused on the relationship between urban form and architecture. As Neo-Rationalists, for instance Also Rossi, tried to attach architectural vocabularies to history, unlike Modernists’ internationalism, understanding an existing urban form was very important for them, and the attachment to history was no longer through ornaPRAUD

mental replication but through autonomous form of architecture that was driven from intense analysis of urban form. In short, the third typology emphasizes architectural form as part of the form of the city, and being said, it is more about how architecture makes its relationship to urban form.


[TO] Topological Deformation Dom-ino System

= Horizontal Window

Among the three typological discourse from Vidler’s perspective, we can argue that the third typology is extrovert towards urban context and the first two typologies are more introvert, dealing with elements and systems of architecture. Therefore, in this essay, the third typology is considered on its ow while the other two are considered together; Topology and Typology. The term “topology” is borrowed from mathematics to emphasize three-dimensional properties of architectural form. It is concerned with spatial properties that are preserved under continuous deformation of an object, meaning that a form can keep its spatial properties through deformation, unless it is by cutting or gluing. The concept of topology in mathematics broke the rule of Euclidean geometry that dominated the perception of space through centuries. Therefore, since the concept of topology emerged, the way you understand a space became different. For instance, when Euclidean geometry was the way of perceiving a space, square space meant different from what rectangular space meant. However, in topology, it can be understood that they all share the same spatial quality because the space is now about the relationship between nodes and edges that compose the shape.



In similar manner, topology in architecture focuses on the relationship between solid and void, presence and absence, and architectural form and three-dimensional urban context. Just as the topology in math is about a relationship between nodes and edges, form in architecture can be understood through relationship between solid and void, which means architecture is no longer about how it is shaped in an Euclidean geometrical way, but about what topological properties it

Curtain Wall Free Pattern Media Facade

Deformation is the key of understanding the concept “topology.” In mathematics, it was theoretically proved that even when deformation happens, unless it is cut or glued, the spatial properties of a form is kept the same. This is how the space and universe are understood in math and

science. In similar manner, may there be spatial properties of an architectural form that are kept during deformation. As Rossi argues, the architectural form is driven by the space and time, and therefore, it contains specific properties and meanings itself. Deformation of the form means that the original properties that the form contains are somewhat kept while it is responding to a new context. It is a way of injecting a new topology in a city fabric, and therefore, when the new topology is being duplicated, the urban form can also be transformed without a new major urban planning.

Mirador, MVRDV

Meanwhile, typology is addressing the system of architecture that can be integrated between elements. There is no clear boundary between elements; wall, column, facade, stairs and slab. Nor is there clear functional definition of them. Facade is not just for aesthetics but it is also for structural function. Columns are not just for structure but also for housing programs. Introducing Dom-ino system, Le Corbusier manifested that the architectural system is composed with slab, column and stairs, and other architectural elements, such as facade and walls, should be free from this system. And this is one of the most important key points that define Modernism in architecture. Therefore, no matter how interesting a facade design is, if the constructed system follows the modern language, it would be difficult to explain it as going beyond Modernism. However, in typology, we try to find an integrated system that blurs the boundary between elements, and therefore, the first and second typology that Vidler defines become a single typology that explains structure, aesthetics and space of the building. In the end, Topology & Typology is an architectural vocabulary to find a harmony between architectural form, topology, and architectural system, typology. Just as typology is to find an integrated system that can explain both elements and system of architecture, in Topology & Typology, we try to find a unique typology that fits to a topology so that, in the end, all three typologies that Vidler introduced can be integrated into one single language. PRAUD

Typical housing block is deformed (flipped) to provide different type of high-rise typology. “The proposal opens domestic architecture to the new city environment and to its surrounding territories.” -MVRDV 8 Tallet, B.I.G

Linear block housing type of Copenhagen is deformed by responding to the context and function. It introduced new type of courtyard housing by deforming a conventional form. Gosta Museum, PRAUD Altes Museum is one of the most significant museum projects in architectural history as it introduced a new ‘type’ of modern museum. In Gosta Museum project, the original form of Altes Museum is deformed to accommodate circulation and views in restriced site. Double Doughnut



Gosta Museum


[TO] Contextual Topology As topology is concerned with the relationship between solid and void, in other words, architecture and urban, topological form of an architecture can emerge differently depending on the urban context. For instance, in their museum projects, SANAA has a very clear idea of having independent gallery space as individual box rather than as a whole, and three museums they designed in three different contexts clearly shows how a single concept can be developed in different ways responding to the given urban context. Unlike topological deformation, contextual topology is less driven by space and time of an architectural form itself but more by the way how form can be developed by

responding to the context. It is, in a way, creating a dialog between project and context. For instance, in a high dense context with surrounding high-rises, the form can correspond to the height of the context as one way of a dialog, while giving a different reading of the form from the buildings in the context. Unstable form of the New Museum by SANAA does not only realize the concept of independent gallery space but also shows a unique reading of the form while following the logic of the context. Similar to the topological deformation, it is also a way of introducing new topology in a city, and therefore, it has a potential to reform the urban context when the topology is being duplicated.

South Sea

Existing Fabric

Busan Opera House, PRAUD By nature, an opera house always wants to be iconic in the city. However, it does not mean that one can be isloated from the city fabric. Busan Opera House sits on a new landfill site where old informal fabric and new high-rise developments co-exist.

Singular Gallery Space

Land Fill New Skyline

Independent Gallery Boxes

High-rise Towers

Urban Context

New York, US

Towada, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

Dialogue with Verticality

Pebble Tower Dialogue with Instability/Imperfection

Contextual Topology

Towada Art Center

Kanazawa Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum

Existing Fabric



[TO] Three Dimensional Topology “as long as humans cannot fly, moving horizontally is natural and moving vertically is not. Thus, where there is not sufficient land for construction, a new plane created in the air at medium altitude should be preferred to an American-style tower.” - El Lissizky -

Hotel Liesma, PRAUD

“The “urban space” is the “emptiness” that remains between the built volumes of a city.” - Yona Friedman Baltic Sea Flying Mass (Guest Rooms)

Cloud Project El Lissitzky (1924)

Spatial City Yona Friedman (1958)

Public Programs

Cluster in the Air, Arata Isozaki (1962)


Open Ground

Intrapolis Walter Jonas (1964)

Architecture Principe, Derivation Site Claude Parent (1966)

Sharp Center for Design of OCAD Will Alsop (2004)


Existing Hotel



[TY] Typology; Breaking Modern Elements


Structural Facade

The facade becomes part of the structural system. It address issues of ornamentation and the semantic problem of wall, window, and door through patterning.


Single Surface

One of the first breaks in th modernist system was the manipulation of the slabs in order to create a single surface that merges floor, walls, and ceiling.

1. Structural Facade

2. Single Surface

3. Programable Columns

4. Object Column

5. Obese Core

6. Molded Walls

Torre Agbar, Jean Nouvel

3. Programable Columns

The concept of the column is maintained. The element gets proportioned to accomodate a programatic function as well as a structural function.

Amsterdam Pavilion, UN Studio






Obese Core

The core is treated as the singular structural object from which the other elements are held.

Vitrahaus, Herzog & de Meuron




Sendai Mediatheque, Toyo Ito

6. Molded Walls

Columns are replaced by walls that can function as enclosure, spatial configurators, structure, and ornament

Museum Aan de Stroom, Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Object Column

The slab is maintained and held through a stacking strategy by other structural objects that can hold programs.

3D Patterning


By patterning a geometry in all directions, it dismisses the tradirional modern elements all together. The patterning forms spaces, structure and ornament as one single strategy.

Cidade Das Artes, Christian de Portzamparc

7. 3D Patterning

Taichung Opera House, Toyo Ito


[TY] Typology; Systems

Louisville Children’s Musem, PRAUD Object Colum Strategy

When discussing typology in architecture, it can be interpreted as defining the type of building through its internal programing or as having to do directly with the elements for creating space. The latter interpretation is more involved with understanding language in architecture. Traditionally we can think of these elements as windows, columns, doors, walls, floors, ceilings, ornaments, among others, as forming the taxonomy necessary for putting a building together. In the early 19th century Jean-NicolasLouis Durand tries to classify the elements for forming architecture by distilling the most basic and fundamental elements that get repeated throughout a variety of buildings, deriving to his own taxonomy of parts. This condition still exists today were elements are selected in order to form a building that follows a certain style, most commonly a modernist style, which gets misinterpreted as contemporary architecture. For this reason, it needs to be understood that the elements selected for making a building form the vocabulary for structuring an architectural language. Our goal is to understand what would be the elements that form the vocabulary of a contemporary architecture, and for this we eliminate the idea of individual elements to understand typology more as a holistic architectural SYSTEM. Looking back at modernism, the diagram of the Domino System, breaks of the idea of typology as a set of parts, and introduces an architectural system. The Domino system though, still follows Le Corbusier 5 points in architecture, and relies on separate elements to complete the building, therefore the system itself could be used for buildings of different programs such as housing, commercial, institutional, which get differentiated by their facade and their interior compartmentalization. The system is independent of its free facade and free plan, which is a condition in architecture that we see up to date, which is why we question if we have ever really left Modernism if we are still using the same vocabulary of the modernist language. The emerging language of Contemporanism, relies on a manipulating the elements of modernism and the domino system: slabs, columns, free facade, stairs/core, and walls. SLAB: The element of the slab has been studied as a continuous surface in order to break the monotony of the domino system of stacking. The concept of the single surface building follows this lineage of exercises. Examples: Educatorium by OMA, New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion by UN Studio. FACADE: The facade has been studied as a structural element that becomes indispensable to the system. Patterning in the facade reconfigures the semantics of what

is window, what is a door, what is ornamental, or structural. The building is composed by a structural shell that is autonomous of its internal programming. Examples: Torre Agbar by Jean Nouvel; Simons Hall by Steven Holl. These manipulations represent a new set of rules for contemporary grammar. Contemporanism aims at not only manipulating these modernist elements but arrive at a new holistic system with no traces of modernism. If we think Contemporanism as a system, then it must operate in a way that structure, ornament, space, fenestrations, and finish work as a single architectural logic, which can be interpreted as a 3D patterning strategy. Currently under construction, the Taichung Opera House by Toyo Ito functions in this way, where a singular logic is used as structure, space, and ornament. Understanding typology not as program but as language helps us differentiate between modernist elements and contemporary, and it helps us select architectural moves that must be made in order to move beyond Modernism and into Contemporanism.

The Sandwich Stacking Typology: Progam boxes holds program layers in order to create a series of open and close exhibition spaces.

A. Program Layers

B. Tube Ramps

C. Program Boxes

6. Structural Tube Structural Facade 5.

4. Single Surface Kinmen Ring

Object Column Helsinki Public Library

A series of circulation bridges not only supports potential exhibition spaces in the museum, but creates a visual and spatial interactions between the museum program, and open public space. Six bridges loosely defines the public space in the middle. Yellow boxes in between blackhorizontal bars, function as structural element as well as black box programmatic elements. These boxes have interactive facades that will indicate exhibition programs so that people from outside can also see what is happening inside of the museum.


Obese Core Daegu Public Library

Programable Column Hotel Liesma

Structural Facade Edificio Polaris

3D Patterning West End Museum




Stacking Process




Dom-ino System

Generic Form


Fat Core

Stacked Tube



Double Doughnut Pancake

Transformable Blocks

Mutiple Waffle


Integrated Facade

Sitting Boxes

Double Doughnut


Hydraulic Column

Stacked Hose


Flying Doughnut


Rythmic Tube

Leaning Boxes


Vierendeel Truss

Munchikins II


Structural Patterning




Helsinki Public Library, PRAUD + Doughnut






[TO] Deformation I

View Corridor

[TO] Deformation II Align Height

[TY] Truss System

[TO+TY] Typological system updates Topological form

holding dead load

[TY] Tube System

holding lateral force

[TY] Tensile Plate

holding moment force

The project shows how TOPOLOGY and TYPOLOGY of an architecture can be harmonized to form itself. Though the site is surrounded by medium-rise buildings, the required program area is not enough to have the library meet the neighborhood building heights. Therefore, the programmed mass is folded up to meet the height. As this fold creats cantilivered part on both sides, a top mass is proposed to hold the tensile stress. Therefore, a donut form became TOPOLOGY of the libary, which is completed by TYPOLOGIC solution. This donut shape form provides a unique third space that is not required in the program. It is an urban scale public space inside of the library that is created by the nature of the TOPOLOGY. In terms of TYPOLOGY, besides the top tensile plate, we introduced horizontal tubes to hold lateral force of the building. The library has two major truss system at both sides of the building to hold majority of the structural stress. At the same time there should be members that holds lateral force. These horizontal tubes are also related to programmed rooms. Programs that need least natural light are planned in them. Therefore, TYPOLOGIC system is not just for structure but also for space.


7149 PRAUD

7149 PRAUD

Topology & Typology  
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