Architectural history is marked by moments in time when new building typologies were created. Less noticeable is the fact that the building typologies originate from the introduction of a new construction method. New construction methods come from outside cultures, and this leads to the hypothesis that building typologies are resultant of another culture’s intervention and this intervention blends the two cultures and their construction methods. When new construction methods are introduced to a society by an outside culture, a new building typology is created that blends the two cultures’ building typologies. New building typologies contain physical, woven pieces of old building typologies, or they are evolved from the old ways of construction and are completely new. If construction is defined as how things are put together in a building, this essay will further investigate how the combination of construction methods and materials from one culture overlapping with another forms a new building typology. Three notable examples of precedents that established new building typologies from overlapping cultures are Herzog and de Meuron’s Greek Orthodox Church, Gilbert and Taylor’s Endicott Building, and Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral.
Herzog and de Meuron’s 1989 competition entry for the Greek Orthodox Church of Switzerland in Zurich was designed out of a completely new construction method, image-perforated transparent marble, and the production of the new construction method stemmed from the traditional Orthodox church typology of a grand space supported by monolithic stone construction and new technology that allows marble to be ground to a thin slab and pierced with acid to “tattoo” transparent dots in a calculated pattern that forms selected images. Herzog and de Meuron, non-religious yet designing a new church typology, coated the entire surface of the church in a new stone construction method, a combination of the effect of monolithic stone construction and a new way of using stone. The surface condition of the proposed Orthodox church consists of the thinnest slabs of marble partially dissolved with an acid solution and filled with pigment in a calculated dot-pattern similar to that of tattoo application. The dot-patterns, very small, form reproduced celebrated iconic images of religious art by allowing light to travel through the melted dots in the marble. The result is a conglomerate of religious icons from different times and places formed out of light, projecting themselves into space. The use of stone is not a testament to the grandness of God, but a connection to other Christians across time through conversation with the artists of the images and worshippers who adore the same iconic images. The use of construction method is much different than the traditional monolithic construction with domes and grand spaces housing aisles and a raised alter and the possibility of supporting back rooms. Herzog and de Meuron’s Orthodox Church, in form, is just an empty cube enveloped by the weather-enclosing constructed surface. A fully new construction method making up the Orthodox Church of Switzerland allows church form, construction, material and structure to be reconsidered, thus creating a new church typology. This church typology creates a new religious space and way of viewing Christianity. The Orthodox community was introduced to secular designers and thinkers through the construction method of the church, and the cultural ideology of the two communities is blended in the construction of the church. The monolithic marble construction of traditional Orthodox churches represents the simple structure of the religion and God’s place in the world, but the outsider’s view of faith created an enveloping surface condition of piercing light through technological manipulation of marble, commenting on either the holes in blind faith or the intangible connection between the faithful and God. The new church typology brings the different communities together by combining their construction techniques and creating a new building method.
The Endicott Building of 1890 in Saint Paul/ Minneapolis, Minnesota by Cass Gilbert and James Knox Taylor marks the shift between brick monolithic factory construction into steel wireframe construction, the first skyscraper. An entire new material with its own construction methods, steel frame creates different spatial organization and circulation and new opportunities for the envelope condition, as the envelope shifted from being monolithic load bearing to independent of the structure. Steel frame construction offers a new way of combining envelope, structure, and space. The brick construction is of the pre-industrial culture, while steel construction is of the modern; the industrial age did not only come from technology but a new way of thinking that spurred the creation of that technology, and this new way of thinking led to new inventions like steel construction. Without a revolutionary mindset in the modern, industrial community, technology would not lead to meaningfully innovative creations. The intersecting cultures of modern and traditional created a building method that is forever grounded in the limbo age of the Industrial Revolution, the middle period of changing from one way of living to another for the entire West. The skyscraper typology, created out of this limbo time of modern thinking, is a product therefore of two building methods and creates a new third construction method, a combination of brick and steel.
The conquest of the Aztecs by the Spaniards must be viewed not as the ending of the Aztec culture but a new blending of the ancient culture with the introduced Spanish culture. Beginning the blending of these two culture called for the demolition of the root of the Aztec culture, the central Aztec Temple, and the construction of a new, woven, building typology. The demolition marked the beginning of a three century long construction of now one of the most renowned Roman Catholic cathedrals of the world. The stones of all the demolished Aztec Temple were reused to building the new Metropolitan Cathedral which made up mostly of basalt and grey sandstone. The construction of the Cathedral was three centuries long. The Cathedral is a narrative and document of the major tectonic systems of each of those centuries which include Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassic systems. Though there were three different major construction systems they are not in conflict with one another, they actually work successfully and create a unique space that defines Mexican culture. The layers work from the ground up and from the interior to the exterior and mark the beginning and ending of each century of construction. The openwork towers create a distinct Neo-Classical style and the bell towers which in themselves are strange because of their varied sizes from one another add the final layer. Finally the facade of the massive volutes and twisted columns give a Baroque impression. Each celebrated style in time is documented by the building system and materials of the Church, and these different layers together generated a distinct Mexican Architecture. This Mexican Architecture is not quite a typology, but a building construction that is seen in Mexico in all types of buildings and can be traced to this precedent.
These examples are just three of many instances across time that mark moments when architectural typologies were created. These typologies are always products of new types of building, meaning that they are created out of new materials or new structural inventions, and these creations come from a combination of two culture’s building methods’ intersection. The creation of building typology is a marker in time for two cultural communities forming a common space they both share, bridged by their blending of building methods.
MexicoCity-Guide.com. “Mexico City – Metropolitan Cathedral.” Mexico City – Guide.com – Mexico City on the Web. Mexicocity-guide.com, 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2013 Explains the conquest of the Spaniards over the Aztecs. The conquest that lead to the demolition of the central Aztec Temple to the building of the Roman Catholic Church that took its place. The building of the Church upon the exact site and out of the same stones at the Aztec Temple symbolically shows the Spanish Conquest of not only the people but of the Architecture.
PlantWare Inc. “Cathedral Metropolitana.” Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City. PlantWare Inc., 1995. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. Discusses in depth the three centuries of construction of the Church. Talks about the three building methods of each century are collaborated into the building because it took three centuries for the building to be completed. These three methods of construction across time created a new monumental church that is a literal documentation across the three centuries.
Herzog, Jacque, and Pierre De Meuron. “057 GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH.” HERZOG & DE MEURON. HERZOG & DE MEURON, 1989. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. Introduces the ideas that began the ground work for a new material that makes this Church a new kind of space. The “icons” have never been used in a space as a material ever. This rises new questions and concerns for future buildings not just churches but this radically changes the interpretation of material within a church.
Reichold, Klaus. Buildings That Changed the World. Munich: Prestel, 1999. The construction of the first skyscraper, steel structured and a glass elevator. Set a new standard for buildings not only because of its extreme height but because of the materials used to construct the building. As well as the material used to enclose the elevator. This was a busy people filled building that changed how people interacted with each other because of the structure of the building. Directional columns, circulating columns, columns implying vertical movement. The biggest change was building and moving vertically.
Ferry, W. Hawkins. The Buildings of Detroit; a History. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1968. Print. The Endicott Building was a building that changed how people thought of construction because of the new constructional materials. Buildings got bigger after the Endicott Building it set a height to out due. The way construction was organized in columns, directional, circulatory, and vertical circulatory.