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architecture and urbanity: theory, insight and inspiration

The third typology, which Vidler posits as one that is the reconstitution of the fragments of other typologies, contains various typologies all at once. As the site for this new typology the city is “born of a desire to stress the continuity of form and history against the fragmentation produced by the elemental, institutional, and mechanistic typologies of the recent past” (261). The continual reconstitution of fragments ensures multiple readings and realities and relations dependent upon “inherited from meanings ascribed by the past existence of the forms”, a “choice of the specific fragment and its boundaries”, “a recomposition of these fragments in a new context”. Thus the development of a third typology results from the fragmentation of existent typologies and a reassembly of them, giving rise to new meaning and new purpose. The city is therefore in a constant state of renewal, for, if I follow the logic correctly, even the third typology will fragment and be reconstituted, producing new meaning from the old, “the layers of accrued implication deposited by time and human experience cannot be lightly brushed away” (262) but they can reconstitute, producing new meaning, form and function.

This is “the fire of life” which Weinstock writes of in “Metabolism and Morphology”; “matter” like old typologies, “is recycled, but energy is dissipated, used up and lost to the system” (28). Weinstock is no doubt reflecting upon the efficiency of natural systems and its application in building design, but I think this also speaks to the development of new typologies. The energy dissipated by the system is perhaps the old sign and symbol that typology referenced; typologies are in a constant state of re-signification. In the morphology of linguistics, words are related to other words, just as in the morphology of form, forms are related to other forms; essentially, they form other forms. In this reading, I’m somewhat confused as to what is the more salient purpose: designing buildings that reference the metabolism and morphology of natural systems, or the acknowledgement of metabolism and morphology in the continuum of the built form.

In “The Discourse on Nature” Foucault emphasizes that “things and words are interwoven”; the “monster” of which Foucault speaks is the emergent form in language and emergent form in form which nonetheless reference the “fossil” forms and words; part of the continuum of development is a reference to past forms and reconstitution to house new purpose. Like speech, form is “consecrated to time, to memory, to reflection, to continuity” but it also affirms precipitates new futures, new possibilities.


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