urban prototypes A Research Cluster of the Architectural Association

urban prototypes
Françoise Fromonot interview

An extract from the interview we conducted with Françoise Fromonot during her visit to the AA in October 2012

Doug Spencer: The terms type, archetype and prototype are often used interchangeably, as equivalents. Do you differentiate between, or do you see any value in making differentiations between type, archetype and prototype?

Françoise Fromonot: Etymologically at least, there is one. As I understand it, there is proto which comes first, then there is type which is a sort of stabilization of the notion, and there is archetype, the most relevant or faithful, which is somehow an ideal image of what the type could yield … There is often a confusion between type – or archetype – and model. Not only are these terms often taken for one another — just as archetype is often taken for paradigm for instance — but there is also a confusion between model and type. Model and type are really quite different, and that goes back to a long historical tradition of architecture. As far back as the early nineteenth century, there was already a discussion on the difference between the two and virtues of each. Quatremère de Quincy gives a definition that opposes type and model in so far as the type would be a series of principles which are quite flexible in their interpretation, and therefore would not necessarily imply direct imitation (you have a series of rules and then you can interpret them according to time, technology, circumstances…); on the other hand, you have the model which suggest literal reproduction, copy; therefore is by essence more modernist in that it is something which is fixed and leads to the standard. Type does not lead to the standard, but to an endless series of variations on a set of few rules, a family of buildings or objects of the same kin, so to speak.


Françoise Fromonot is an architecture critic and professor at the school of architecture of Paris-Belleville. Her extensive writings include monographs on Glenn Murcutt, Jørn Utzon and Marc Mimram. Fromonot was an editor of l’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (1994–1998), co-editor in chief of the journal le Visiteur (1999–2003) and, in 2007, a founding member of Criticat.

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