In “Vernacular versus Type: on Swissness and Colombianness,” Emanuel Christ and Camilo Restrepo imagine the type as a vehicle for ideas to travel through building cultures. Find below an extract of their conversation featured in NESS 1 titled “Between Cozy History & Homey Technics.”
Camilo Restrepo– A couple of years ago, while you were teaching with Christoph at the ETH, you produced this wonderful series of texts on typology published by Park Books. In one of those volumes, the first one, you made a re-edition of Moneo’s text. I would like to begin from there […] because of two things. First, his obsession with going deep into the theory of disciplinary conditions. In this case, his obsession with the type forty years ago, when he wrote the text. And secondly, he’s been able to push together the technique in a very clear tradition of Spanish architecture that profiles or creates an architect that is rather similar, I would say, to a Swiss architect, or perhaps to a certain generation of Colombian or Latin American architects, where we were concerned about not only operating within the disciplinary boundaries of theory and history but, at the same time, making it possible—or at least visible, verifiable—within a construction in itself. […]
Emanuel Christ– I totally agree, and I think that it’s a very nice starting point. The way you phrase it couldn’t be more precise. What I might add is that it is the belief in the reality of the city that gives Moneo’s work its orientation, as well as to our work, and I think to yours as well. Meaning that, speaking of history and theory, on the one hand, and technique, on the other, it all comes together in what you call ‘experiencing the story of architecture’ within a given place. This is what Moneo is about, not only in his texts but also in his work. […] To what extent is history becoming relevant for today’s production in relation to the city?
CR– I think that what you’re proposing is very nice: how the typology connects with the city. Then it takes us not only to the question of how the type forges, or creates a particular relation of architecture with the city, but also how the city is made by these layers of previous or particular organizations. Those are temporary, in the sense that the type creates a temporary organization of space, a temporary organization of architecture but, at the same time, refers to the building itself. It’s only possible to make it happen out of the theoretical question, when does it become part of the city, or how do these typologies also shape the city, in the sense that it’s possible to be there, it’s possible to experience it. I’m very emphatic about the experience because, for many years, I guess, history claimed typology as a very interesting question, but, for many, it was detached from the reality of creating a city. […]
EC– Maybe yes, but that’s also why, after forty years, we are again intrigued by this idea of type because type is, by definition, based on the idea of universality. The type is ultimately not linked or related to a place anymore. Originally it was. We could even question to what extent it is possible to have a type without vernacular. Type is either five hundred years old and evolved, or it is only 25 years old. A type is, in general, very simple, it’s something that goes beyond the individual solution. It is something that is repeated, reinterpreted and, in that sense, a type is a concept that belongs to the world of ideas, that can travel. It’s vernacular, it evolves and becomes like a general universal good in architecture that architects and city users may experience and reinterpret at different points in time, to respond to similar issues but also to tackle new ones. That’s what I find interesting, but of course, the type is abstract and if we go back to the project it will be very specific and very much related to the base, and that’s so beautiful. That’s how ideas in architecture travel, in the end. Much more than images.