[Tagging] building typology vs usage

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Fri Sep 13 14:34:16 UTC 2019

On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 9:20 AM Dave F via Tagging
<tagging at openstreetmap.org> wrote:
> On 11/09/2019 14:50, Paul Allen wrote:
> >
> > I said that if it was a church and looks like a church then tag the building as a church even if it now functions as something else.
> Buildings don't have a 'type'. There's no 'class', no standard
> architectural style or size. A quick image search proves that.
> OSM "is a place for mapping things that are both real and current"
> 'building=*' is to indicate its current usage.
> /If/ there's an insistence on recording it's original usage, if actually
> *known*,not just observed, then an appropriate *clearly defined* tag
> should be used. Something along the lines of 'original building use".
> Frederik suggests "Everyone may be confused about this.". It's been
> evident for years that those who are perplexed are the ones who imagined
> a 'typology'. I believe they've based their assumptions on anecdotal
> observations around their own neighbourhoods. OSM is global.

In the part of the country where I live, the vernacular architecture
is based on an idea of hardline Protestantism that rejected trappings.
The older buildings tend to be symmetric boxes (albeit with
more-or-less steeply pitched roofs; it *snows* here) that give no hint
to their purpose. There's one listed historic building in my township
that in its history served as a school, a social center, and a private
house, and is now subdivided into office space. The only real
indicator of its current purpose is that the front door has a
sandstone lintel reading, 'District School NÂș 4'.

Likewise, buildings may reveal obviously their complex history.
Consider the Imam al-Khoei Foundation building in Jamaica, Queens, New
York.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imam_Al-Khoei_Benevolent_Foundation#/media/File:Imam_Al-Khoei_Foundation_8989_Van_Wyck_jeh.jpg
https://www.flickr.com/photos/imjustwalkin/29799850223 .  It's
obviously a converted factory - and just as obviously a mosque. At
what point does the former usage become obscured enough that the
building acquires a new type?

The example that everyone loves to cite is 'building=church'. That
appears to come about because people imagine very likely a building
with a tall steeple or campanile, stained glass windows, perhaps built
in a Gothic or Romanesque style.  But a couple of centuries ago in
stern, Calvinist, North America, churches were plain affairs, with no
stained glass, no iconography, not even a cross atop the steeple:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/steveguttman/2814490383 is fairly
typical of a church of the denomination and period. Is that obviously
of the "church" type?  If so, can you say what features in particular
distinguish it from
which is pretty typical of a primary school of the same period? Many
of these buildings also started out their lives as government
buildings - the "meetinghouse" of a village would have been its seat
of government as well as its church, in an era before the separation
of church and state was a familiar idea. Meetinghouses were often even
plainer than the examples that I've given so far.
was in fact the town's meetinghouse, simultaneously its place of
worship and seat of government, but from the exterior could just have
easily have been a workshop, a school, or a boardinghouse.

If you have a high-Gothic building with twin campaniles, a magnificent
rose window, and similar trappings, that's now a banquet hall or has
been subdivided into flats, go ahead and tag it as "building=church"
if you like. I really don't care. But don't expect that every building
will fit an imagined typology. Frederik and others have told me
repeatedly, "if it still looks like a church, tag it building=church,
if it still looks like a school, tag it building=school, and so on."
But that doesn't inform me about the historic buildings that I'm most
interested in tagging. For the most part their history is complicated,
and their appearance is either likewise complicated, or else
undistinguished. What does a church, or a school, or a government
building, look like?

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin

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