Micromorphology and typo morphology: the English semi-detached house

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Invited research seminar, Urban Morphology Research group, University of Birmingham, 22 October 2014 Author: Peter J Larkham

Text of Micromorphology and typo morphology: the English semi-detached house

  • 1. Morphology,micromorphology and typo-morphology: theEnglish semi-detached housePeter J. LarkhamBirmingham City University

2. Introduction: why the semi? 3. A broad rangeof academicinterest (evenif critical!) 4. Academic and professional critiquesthe outskirts of Banbury were a sorry sight, for the sturdy stoneheart of the old market town by the Cherwell is besieged on all sides bysemi-detached monstrosities whose growth has recently received freshimpetus from new industrial expansion (Rolt, 1944, p. 50) 5. Academic and professional critiquesa wilderness of semi-detached houses in sham-rural streets are indeedsomething more than a chaos of romantic individualism in themselves:they are the physical expression of the prime social evil of the age.Everywhere individualism is supreme: and the Street and the Town,those two units in which the quality of mans mass association hasalways been so clearly symbolised, unmistakeably illustrate it by theirvery absence (Sharp, 1936, p. 87). 6. Academic and professional critiquesThe semi-detached is perhaps the least satisfactory building unit in theworld (Patrick Abercrombie, 1939, p. xix)Suburbia is a dirty word. This is natural enough for, with rareexceptions, the appearance of Britains suburbia is at best dull, and atworst hideous (Edwards, 1981, p. 1) 7. Social attitudes?The only fault of the house is that it is semi-detached.Oh, Aunt Sarah! You dont mean that you expect me to live in a semi-detachedhouse?Why not, dear, if it suits you in all other respects?Why, because I should hate my semi-detachment, or whatever theoccupants of the other half of the house may call themselves.(E. Eden (1859) The semi-detached house, p. 1) 8. Osbert Lancasters By-passvariegated 9. Semi-detached asa work of art!By Michael Landy, atthe Tate Gallery,2004 10. Semi-detached suburbia is relatively low density, therefore threatened bycontemporary planning policies and development economics (this photo is 1991) 11. Typology and type; morphology andmicromorphology 12. According to Cannigia and Maffei:Type:During a moment of greater civil continuity, builders, guided by theirspontaneous consciousness, can produce an object without thinkingtwice, only unconsciously conditioned by their cultural background.That object [building] will be determined out of previous experiences intheir civil surroundings (p. 50) 13. According to Cannigia and Maffei:Building Type: buildings with a certain function in common or, less generally,buildings with a similar structural-distributive plan or [used tosystematize buildings] unitarily characterizing buildings with the samepurpose and similar architectural characteristics (p. 50).In other words, if we see that two or more houses have similarcharacteristics, we label them together and say that these housesbelong to the same building type (p. 51). 14. In the Italian typo-morphological approach, therefore,Type is usually identified by a posteriori analysis; but similar houses,leading to the identification of a type, may be produced in such away because their builders would not have been capable of producingthem differently each house corresponds to the house concept inforce at the time in which each of them was built (p. 52).Type is, therefore, the conception of the building produced (p. 54). 15. In the Italian typo-morphological approach, therefore,Type cognition necessitates another further definition, typologicalprocess. If we examine several historical building types in the samecultural area, we perceive progressive differentiation among them,more marked in very old buildings and less so in more recent buildings(p. 54).In actual fact, the contribution of widespread changes can only beread at prolonged intervals, comparing a new order to its previousones (p. 55). 16. Perhaps more confusingly,Type can be defined as a heritage of common, transmittablecharacters pre-existent to the formation of the organism, governing thegeneration of the single elements and the structure of theirrelationship. Type is not definable by a simple statistical recurrence ofcertain requisites; it is not an abstract model, but rather a synthesis ofthe original characters of a building; it is the materialization of apersistent set of notions, principles, and characters inherited on acollective basis and accepted by a civilization throughout its history(Strappa, 1998, p. 92). 17. Perhaps more helpfully,The concept of building type is the mental tool used to facilitateorientation in the intriguing stratified layers of the [urban] fabric(Petruccioli, 1998, p. 12).The birth of a type is conditioned by the fact that a series of buildingsshare an obvious functional and formal analogy among themselves. Inthe process of comparing or selectively superimposing individual formsfor the determination of the type, the identifying characteristic ofspecific buildings is eliminated and only the common elements remainwhich then appear in the whole series (Petruccioli, 1998, p. 11, after Argan) 18. More generally,Type is defined as a kind, class or category, the constituents of which share similarcharacteristics . a subidivision of a particular class the general form, plan or design distinguishing a particular groupTypology is the study of types in archaeology, biology etc.(Collins English Dictionary) 19. What is the semi? 20. The archetypal English semi-detachedhouse?Britains most popular housetype (Jensen, 2007, front cover) 21. The universal plansemi althougharchitectural stylesvary! 22. But a semi-detached pair does not have to be symmetrical! 23. But some can be single-storey 24. Or only just separated! 25. Just because buildings are physically attached does not mean thatthey were built at the same time nor that they should be consideredas a semi-detached pair 26. Conversion of detachedto semi-detached (built1734, Manningham)York 27. Three (or more)houses, of thesame floor planas a semi-detachedpair,form a terrace 28. And a single,again of thesame floorplan, isdetached 29. Detached, butunusally obviouslya half-semidesign! 30. Detached or semi-detached? Often in close proximity, of same design, notconstrained by site. So what factors affect this choice? 31. Or even the decision to build semi-detached or terraced (these are in veryclose proximity) 32. The impact ofextensions(affect character butnot type?) 33. Alterations in 1994 certainly affected character! (centre)(half-timbering subsequently removed) 34. Over-extended? 35. If everyoneextends to thepropertyboundaries, doesthis create aterrace? 36. Different plan forms 37. Semis can be double-fronted (or more) (that on extreme right has lost itsright-hand chimney) 38. Double fronted but entrances on side wall: these aremaisonettes (4 dwellings per block) 39. Centre bay, centrechimney,entrances at sideof front elevation 40. Centre entrance,habitable roomsand chimneys atsides 41. Centre entrances(chimneys usually at sides!) 42. Symmetrical, butcentre baysprojecting.Entrances on sidewalls 43. Garages at centre, though entrances differ 44. Turning the street corner 45. Coping with hills 46. Dates (and styles)Every house is different! (Wates, advertisement, c. 1938) 47. A timeline of styles(Jensen, 2007)Variation in Wates house designs(company brochure c. 1938) 48. The earliest semis?In 2008 there was a robust debate on the Guardian website seeking toidentify the first semis. Michael Searles, early 1790s, Kennington Park T. Gayfere & J. Groves, 1776, Blackheath (in Pevsner & Cherry) Richard Gillow, 1758/9, Moor Lane Unknown, c. 1715-25, 808-810 Tottenham High Road Unknown, 1690s, Northgate, Warwick Unknown, late mediaeval? now 169-170 Spon Street, Coventry (via thecitys Conservation Officer) 49. Very early! 50. Classical (early Victorian) 51. Mid-Late Victorian 52. Edwardian 53. 1920sReminiscent of Edwardian pre-warLocal Authority-built, smaller, lacksdetailingCast iron, immediately post-First World War 54. 1930sReminiscent of Edwardian pre-war/1920s 55. Modern(e), twentieth-century inter-war 56. 1950s/60sPost-warexperimental 57. (very) contemporary 58. Recently constructed 59. Chingford,1993 60. Internal layouts 61. The typo-morphological approach?Typically, typo-morphologicalstudies have shown a (perhapsidealised) diagram of thedevelopment of the types planover time. 62. A typological process? 63. FrontLiving room (parlour)Dining roomService (hallway, stairs, landing)Kitchen 64. FrontLiving room (parlour)Dining roomService (hallway, stairs, landing)Kitchen 65. FrontLiving room (parlour)Dining roomService (hallway, stairs, landing)KitchenBays optional front/back,could be lower only 66. FrontLiving room (parlour)Dining roomService (hallway, stairs, landing)KitchenBays optional front/back,could be lower onlyAdjoining semi could beattached to either side 67. Double-fronted, large service area(kitchen, scullery, wash-house, toilet etc)Primarily early (eg Victorian)Single livingroom (2-up, 2-down), early, lowstatusUniversal plan,common fromFirst World WarStairs betweenliving & diningrooms, primarilyearly 68. Double-fronted, large service area(kitchen, scullery, wash-house, toilet etc)Primarily early (eg Victorian)Single livingroom (2-up, 2-down), early, lowstatusUniversal plan,common fromFirst World WarWith garage, and perhapsouthouse, either side,from c. 1930/35 69. Double-fronted, large service area(kitchen, scullery, wash-house, toilet etc)Primarily early (eg Victorian)Single livingroom (2-up, 2-down), early, lowstatusUniversal plan,common fromFirst World WarWith garage, and perhapsouthouse, either side,from c. 1930/35May be detached, inrear garden 70. Post-war, particularly 1980s onwardsCloakroom (toilet parallelingthe fashion for more en suitesupstairs!) 71. Post-war, particularly 1980s onwardsNew construction b