Thinking Design:
Blueprint for an Architecture of Typology

Park Books, Zürich 2021

Review by Cameron McEwan,
“Peripheral Monuments: Book Review of Thinking Design - Blueprint for an architecture of typology by Andreas Lechner”, in: Journal of Architecture and Urbanism, Volume 46/1 (2022), 83-88.

"Lechner's work is compelling and stimulating. He draws on the analytical and typological processes associated with Aldo Rossi's (1966, 1982) reading of cities as a composition of monuments - permanent traces, and collective memory - but Lechner applies those approaches to interpret city edges, commercial vernacular, and the urban periphery. There is an identifiable allegiance to Rossi mixed with Venturi and Scott Brown (1972, 1991), and John Hejduk (1985) as reference points. What seems significant and admirable in Lechner's writing, projects, and teaching is that intellectual culture and creative intuitive approaches are kept in close proximity to the critical rational tradition … Thinking Design provides an important critical overview for theories and projects of typology and will offer a useful compendium for the student and teacher of architecture as well as the critical practitioner. Yet Thinking Design also offers an original theoretical reflection on the status of the urban periphery and opens questions about architecture and architectural design research as a practice of critical inquiry. In the face of the capitalist debris and the uneven space that is the hallmark of urban peripheries as a global condition, we might return to some of the 144 typologies that Lechner presents as inspiring examples; or study the striking suite of projects by students under Lechner’s supervision, which are compiled in the appended booklet. Lechner offers inspiring reflections, strong examples, and useful models for what may become the peripheral monuments of tomorrow."

McEwan, C. (2022). Peripheral monuments: book review of Thinking Design: Blueprint for an Architecture of Typology by Andreas Lechner. Journal of Architecture and Urbanism, 46(1), 83-88.

"Thinking Design: Blueprint for an Architecture of Typology" by Andreas Lechner explores the essence of architectural design, emphasizing the primacy of form and its role as a backdrop for human coexistence. The book is divided into two parts: three essays and drawings of 144 architectural projects with brief descriptions. These sections, although loosely related, overlap in their search for terminology and an ordering system to distinguish generic from particular aspects.

The author developed the book based on lectures at the Graz University of Technology, evolving the content over the years. The selection of projects reflects a continuous presence of the past in architecture, making it tangible for design teaching. The book acknowledges the complex nature of architectural production, influenced by practical, theoretical, artistic, and technological factors, without attempting to resolve the tension between the objective and the subjective. The book argues that architectural designs, seemingly pre-linguistic, serve as literal reflections of prevailing social circumstances. The book delves into three chapters: "Tectonics," "Type," and "Topos," examining architecture's attempt to establish its identity as a social and cultural force. It explores the tension between the general and the particular in building design, emphasizing the importance of this dichotomy. The concepts of "tectonics," "type," and "topos" are introduced as autoreferential rather than rigid design standards. Lechner intentionally avoids focusing on technical, historical, or local details in the representation of projects, highlighting the generic aspect of architectural bodies and their relationship with repetition. The book argues that design derives its creative power from the interplay between originality and repetition.

The chapters "Tectonics," "Type," and "Topos" address the tension between form and function, examining architecture's role as a cultural and social construct. Lechner introduces the notions of "state," "recreation," and "surveillance" to underscore the sociopolitical dimension of spatial-structural contexts. He argues that the inherent relation between form and function is not arbitrary but ambiguous. Lechner discusses the critique of Late-Modernist architecture, tracing the development of architectural typology through different eras. The book highlights the importance of theory in architecture, emphasizing a broad and open approach to design education.
The first chapter, "Tectonics," provides an overview of the book's structure, literature, and project selection process. It emphasizes the practical design approach, serving as a source of ideas and reference works. The second chapter, "Type," explores the distinction between "first" and "second typology" and introduces the postfunctionalist and urbanistic-atmospheric typology in the third chapter, "Topos." The book discusses the broader concept of type in architecture, emphasizing its relevance as “professional memory” despite changing demands. Lechner acknowledges the productive dimension of vagueness and polemics in the architectural design process, presenting the 144 projects as a selection that illustrates a design aspect based on typological understanding. "Thinking Design" thus offers a comprehensive exploration of architectural design, addressing the complex interplay between form, function, and societal context. The book provides a nuanced perspective on typology and emphasizes the negotiation of architectural knowledge through composition and transformative design processes.

︎︎︎Order at Park Books

However disparate the style or ethos, beneath architecture's pluralism lies a number of categorical typologies. In Thinking Design, Austrian architect Andreas Lechner has condensed his profound typological understanding into a single book. Divided into three chapters - Tectonics, Type, and Topos - Lechner's book reflects upon twelve fundamental typologies: theater, museum, library, state, office, recreation, religion, retail, factory, education, surveillance, and hospital. Encompassing a total of 144 carefully selected examples of classic designs and buildings, ranging across an epic sweep from antiquity to the present, the book not only explains the fundamentals of collective architectural knowledge but traces the interconnected reiterations that lie at the heart of architecture’s transformative power. As such, Thinking Design outlines a new building theory rooted in the act of composition as an aesthetic determinant of architectural form. This emphasis on composition in the design process over the more commonplace aspects of function, purpose, or atmosphere makes it more than a mere planning manual. It reveals also the cultural dimension of architecture that gives it the ability to transcend not only use cycles but entire epochs. Each example is meticulously illustrated with a newly drawn elevation or axonometric projection, floor plan, and section, not only invigorating the underlying ideas but also making the book an ideal comparative compendium.

An enclosed booklet (32 pages, 19.5 x 28 cm, 58 b-w illustrations) features theses by twelve students of Graz University of Technology that further illustrate Andreas Lechner's approach in teaching and design.

1st edition, Park Books: Zurich 2021,
Hardback, 460 pages, 444 b-w illustrations and plans
23 x 31 cm

ISBN 978-3-03860-246-0

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