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High Density Blocks in Singapore William Lim S.W. and Tay Kheng Soon, ‘Asian City of Tomorrow’, 1966 Aldo Rossi, Schemi tipologici; dall’alto: XIII Triennale, 'Due progetti'

Dominant Types: Typological Ideas from and for the City

Forthcoming PhD dissertation by Christopher CM Lee

This dissertation attempts to rethink the relevance and instrumentality of typology for the contemporary city. The thesis proposes that typological reasoning and experimentation, or working projectively in series, will enable the re-engagement of architecture with the city in a critical and inventive manner. This will entail the renewed understanding of typology and the repositioning of type as a primary element in understanding and envisioning the city; a medium that allows one to draw on its pliability as a constituent part of the city and its effectiveness as a medium for channelling the disciplinary knowledge of the architect. Both of these issues hinge on the ability of type to act as a flexible instrument of control and its potential to derive and propose ideas from and for the city. This also proposes that, beyond the issue of control, the gap between the translations from architecture to the city and vice versa is a fertile ground on which ideas for architecture and the city can be discovered.

This proposition lies firstly in the possibility of bringing together the two different [and often opposing] understanding of type – type as Idea and type as Model - and to renew its relevance as an instrumental tool in bridging the scales between architecture and the contemporary city. It also proposes that the visions of the city are produced today via dominant types.

Singapore will be used as a case study to exemplify the utilization of the dominant type to figure forth an idea of the city. This idea is not fixed nor is it a universal ideal. It is contingent and evolves with the regimes of power and is therefore an evolving political project – a manifestation of political forces. An understanding of dominant types in the context of a globalized architectural production will centre on the discussion of seriality as a shared disciplinary knowledge, a common currency, no longer unique to a geographical context but mutates and follows the logics of flexible accumulation. Unlike the ‘urban artifacts’ associated with the historical city, the dominant types here arose from the conditions of tabula rasa. As the paradigmatic Asian city of modern architecture, Singapore will be understood through two dominant types – the high-rise and podium. The ‘success’ of the city state in utilizing the city and its architecture as a political project has also evolved a condition where the city can be seen as a laboratory for a peculiar archetypal Asian urbanism that is now being exported to other cities in China and India.

> More theoretical writing by Christopher Lee can be found here