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Visiting Scholar Politecnico di Milano (2022-23)

Andreas Lechner (TU Graz) & Gennaro Postiglione (DASTU-POLIMI)

With this Call for Papers we would like to collect contributions for a publication that we will publish with the independent publisher Thymos Books in 2024. This atlas of “typological affordances” will address both practitioners and scholars of architecture, and will be composed of contributions from both practitioners and scholars of architecture. With this call, we invite your suggestions for the inclusion of project documentation of building and research projects that illustrate the correlation of architectural typologies with affordances of use and habitation - through plan, section and elevation.

As we increasingly intervene in existing buildings and structures, the modern dichotomy between 'old' and 'new' has become ambiguous. In a sense, and comparable to 'functions' that can follow any form if given enough leeway, our 'heritage' in the broadest cultural sense has expanded to include the whole of the built environment. Everything has become 'heritage' (and thus mostly meets today's ethical and environmental imperatives). This has been widely explored in architectural and academic research. Fred Scott's seminal monograph 'On Altering Architecture' and the volume 'Experimental Preservation' edited by Jorge Otero-Pailos, Erik Langdalen and Thordis Arrhenius are two of the more prominent recent examples.[1]

Typology (again)?
But as contemporary architecture increasingly 'builds on the built' and turns its attention to adaptive reuse and the transformation of existing buildings, another aspect becomes apparent. Apart from anecdotal cases of transformation projects, there is little systematic and design-led research on the subject. The undeniable attractiveness of hybrid and collaged structures and constructions, of confronting, redesigning and reusing existing buildings, seems to overshadow the need to question the shifts in architectural dogmatics, in modern conservation principles and in school curricula. Don't these shifts bring us back to the question of typology, because this raises the question of the nature of architectural work itself, as the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo wrote in his seminal essay "On Typology"? For Moneo, it is up to each generation of architects to use 'typology' to redefine the nature of architecture and its problems. As a direct index of politics, typologies allow us to understand how even the most mundane aspect of architecture - the disposition of primary structures and spatial elements such as passages, rooms and partitions - both determines a subject's experience of space and forms the basis for any process of identification and representation.

Design-Driven – Drawing-Based
However, Typology Affordances is a design-led research project that seeks to explore and develop design strategies that aim for resilient buildings while remaining fundamentally architectural in nature. It will highlight the different timescales that determine the material composition of a building's shear layers - primary structural systems can last for hundreds of years, while the surfaces, domestic services, furnishings, occupation or accommodation of a particular use are of a more temporary nature. These different time scales create a gap that we tend to bridge in our designs by drawing (or by drawing using other techniques of abstraction). But it is these abstractions that allow us to imagine both past and future forms of habitation. The focus of this project is on these drawn plans of selected projects and how they allow us to record and imagine change over time. It is only through change that the vague, unchanging figure becomes visible. Doesn't this diagram or design principle in plan and section simultaneously outline a powerful solution and a unique architectural responsibility?

Projects for submission
We are looking for projects that can illustrate this relationship between more or less open 'indeterminacy' and affordance. We invite architects and scholars to report on building transformations that exploit, enhance and restore existing typological qualities or produce a new quality within, vis-à-vis, on top of or through an existing building structure. 

[1] See also Sara Marini, Giovanni Corbellini, eds. Recycled Theory: Dizionario illustrato / Illustrated Dictionary, Macerata: Quodlibet 2016.

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