Alessandro Columbano




Birmingham City University


Paper title

Copy Gothic. New Architectural Language In Print.


The Gutenberg press, is an invention greater than just its mechanical achievement. It brought an idea of freedom and democracy through knowledge. The power held by religious institutions was the exploitation of illiteracy where knowledge was preserved for a higher cause, exploited due to more prosaic reasons of a limited capacity for mass printing. Printing became an act of reproduction and distribution of information.

Printing technology has now entered the physical dimension with the emergence of rapid prototyping, a descendant of the first printing press. The technology offers the limitless potential of a new architectural language, one defined by stylistic and structural characteristics that are visually evident. This language is bold, expressive and unique but critically - acontextual. It refers to a progression of the avant-garde, a statement of the technological achievement to the digital age in testament to several preceding historical styles where they pushed the structural limits of materials to create meaning through form.

A theoretical project was composed in reaction to this condition. Copy Gothic (as its title), looked to augment the link between language and print. It investigated the power of the written word in historical and contemporary use, using an almost literal translation to generate a design representative of a time where style embodied great cultural significance.

It proposed a built extension to the John Rylands Library, an institution with one of the remaining extant of the Gutenberg Bible. The importance of this artifact influences the architectural design as a facsimile of the existing Rylands library. The invention of the printing press allowed reproduction of written information; three dimensional printing allows reproduction of physical information. Furthermore, the technology gives the author freedom to adjust the original architecture to compensate the more complex built environment we now live in.

The architectural form is derived from unambiguous conditions of heritage, function and municipal planning. The outcome is an overlay of gothic architecture, contemporary archival facilities and functional disabled access design. Each has its own visual language taken from a graphical into a physical printed medium.

The development of rapid prototyping and 3d printing will provide more opportunities to explore the limits of architecture; the language of which, however revolutionary, can retake design to a time where the meaning of form was taken from the importance of the printed word. This paper will document this notion as a theoretical foundation for the Copy Gothic proposal and proceed to elaborate on its details as a polemical contemporary architectural condition.


Wednesday 28 September


1:30pm - 3.00pm





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