Redefining the Typographical Architect: Analogy and Ethos for Contemporary Design Education

By Jeremy Kargon.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Education in the arts, including architectural design, works often through visual analogy. Qualities easily demonstrated in familiar contexts are shown to be the same as those in new, or unfamiliar, ones. That students can confuse similarity with identity– or that an analogy is only relevant “as far as it goes”–is generally accepted as a simple misstep, from which students learn and mature intellectually. Historian Mario Carpo has located a source of analogy’s importance for European architecture in the transition from non-visual to visual imitation, effected by the introduction of mechanical reproduction at the end of the 15th century. Architects were no longer bound by the constraints of ekphrasis to learn about architecture beyond their immediate experience; architectural discourse (including its teaching) could instead proceed by direct visual example, in contrast to medieval methods of “dialogue, observation, and memory” (Carpo, 1998). What Carpo calls the “Typographical Architect” remains a prominent model for students today, but this model is increasingly challenged as other disciplines (including ecology, sociology, and communications) displace traditional subjects of study from the core of architectural education. An especially useful challenge may derive, ironically, from the very books originally responsible for the rise of the “Typographical Architect.” Students’ engagement with architecture can depend not only upon experiencing buildings and looking at their representations (drawings, diagrams, or photographs), but by attending to the artifacts which bear those representations. Original editions of printed treatises, written by period authors, are part of a work-based discourse independent of–but parallel to–the history of physical architecture itself. In the 21st century classroom, of course, mere printed sources can hardly compete with other media for the attention of students’ visual imaginations. Rather, these books embody certain intellectual and human ethoi, which themselves point towards non-allegorical lessons about architecture. This paper argues for just such an engagement with rare books in architectural education, describes a university-level course based on this premise, and suggests criteria for its efficacy.

Keywords: Architectural Education, History and Design, Analogy and Representation, Rare Books

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 12.102MB).

Jeremy Kargon

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, School of Architecture of Planning, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Jeremy Kargon is a practicing architect with 22 years postgraduate professional experience. Having worked both domestically and abroad, he is especially interested in the cultural dimension of an architect's work and its representation through media. A graduate of Yale and Columbia Universities, he received his first professional license in 1991. Starting in 1994, he worked for the architect Hillel Schocken in Jerusalem, before returning to the United States in 2003. Since 2007 he has taught full-time in the graduate program at Morgan State University, and received his appointment as an assistant professor in September 2009. His written and multimedia projects, including digital video, reflect his orientation towards international and multidisciplinary interests.