Archives for category: Architectural Inspiration

Utopia is synonymous with the ultimate human hope of a rational effort to remake the human environment. Sir Thomas More, who coined the word, explained that it referred to either the Greek word ‘eutopia’, meaning good place, or ‘outopia’, meaning no place (Mumford, L., 2003:1). After the Industrial Revolution and the growth of dystopic towns and cities, the idea of Utopia became more prevalent. Socialism was an attempt to reinvent society into a cooperative experiment, rather than the free-enterprise system of market capitalism. These two diametrically opposed political philosophies stood at the basis of the utopias that were conceptualized and designed by the architects Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in the twentieth century.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was interested in designing affordable homes for the middle class of the USA, he was also interested in urban planning. By the late 1920s he put forward an ideal environment called Broadacre City. To Wright, home ownership was a moral and political value that could produce a more harmonious society. Along with car-ownership, he believed modern communication would provide society with the end of centralized urban environments. In Broadacre City he envisaged a vast semi-rural landscape covering the entire continent. Decentralized in organization, self-sufficient in supply, republican in constitution and populated by car-owning citizens, it was centred on a homestead placed upon one acre of cultivated land. Wright considered that this plan would allow the community to be based upon family values, spirituality and knowledge. The marketplace would be in the shape of trade by barter between proprietors, or an agricultural fair. It would also be a community in which everyone would do everything; farming, industrial work, craftwork etc…; this would give work a self-fulfilling nature. There would be no administration other than the architect himself who would plan the city and settle its affairs (www.mediaarchitecture.at).

Le Corbusier’s Radiant City was a further development of the Contemporary City that he conceptualized in the 1920s. He constructed his model on the basis of a perfectly symmetrical grid of streets, with two right-angled superhighways intersecting at the centre of the city. An elaborate transportation system encompassing subways, access roads, railroads and an airport would also intersect at the city centre. Divided into functionally classified sectors, around this central terminal would be the skyscrapers of the business centre of the whole region. It would cover less than 15 percent of the ground with the rest devoted to parks and gardens. The structure of the residential areas would have the elite leaders of the society in luxurious high rise in the centre, whilst the workers would live in garden apartments on the outskirts. These dwellings would be jointly owned by the residents and run as a cooperative. The satellite towns would be grouped into larger garden units with the surrounding areas left free for lawns, playing fields and gardens. The proletariat’s eight hours of factory labour, essential for the maintenance of living standards, would be overcome by eight hours of leisure in the satellite city’s recreational facilities. The entire city would be run by a dictatorial system directed by the elite industrialists of the city, as in a corporation (Fishman, R., 1982:332)

The differences between these conceptual utopias were many, the first being Wright’s determination of private ownership in Broadacre City. Even though both Wright and Corbusier realised the need for an efficient transport system, Corbusier’s was based upon a vast public network, whilst Wright advocated private car-ownership. Wright’s society was semi-rural and self-sufficient in supply, relying upon the market, whereas Corbusier’s advocated a high-rise, corporate industrialized system. Furthermore, Corbusier envisaged a symmetrical, hierarchical society while Wright’s was individualistic and egalitarian. It seems that Corbusier’s vision was the one to become the model for contemporary 21st century cities. The similarities of both societies lie upon their non-democratic systems of leadership.

Bibliography:

http://www.architecture.ca/planningarchitecture/document/document3.html Retrieved 16.9.08

Fishman, R. 1982, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century, MIT Press

 http://www.mediaarchitecture.at/architekturtheorie/broadacre_city/2007_broadacre_city_en.shtml  Retrieved: 20.9.08

Mumford, L. 2003, The Story of Utopias, Kessinger Publishing

http://www.pbs.org/flw/buildings/usonia/usonia.html

 

 

 

The Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1930) had a very practical attitude toward architecture and a great aversion to the application of falsity through the use of appropriated ornamentation in the buildings of his native Vienna.  One of the major characteristics of his work was a basis in the square and the cube which possibly reflects an influence of the early twentieth century Cubist movement. By exploring the following four examples of Loos’ buildings this case study will attempt to establish the characteristics of his works.

The first example of Loos’ work is the Café Museum (1899). Designed at the peak of the Art Nouveau period, it is an austere embodiment of Loos’ theoretical, and quite preposterous, musings on the renunciation of stylish ornamentation in architecture. The building affirms his aesthetic equation of beauty and utility. The walls are painted a cool green, whilst the Loos-designed chairs are of a dark red timber. These contrasting colours are synonymous with many of Loos’ interiors. They are balanced in theCaféMuseumby a vaulted ceiling that is painted plainly in white whilst a pattern is created by brass strips that, in line with their utilitarian function, also served as electrical conduit to chain-suspended lighting.

One of Loos’ best known buildings and, at the time the most controversial, is the House of Michaelplatz (1911) in Vienna. One of the city’s first modern office buildings, it was both a retrospective and inventive reflection of the city’s historic past and also modernistic future. Its steel concrete construction provided the flexible use of space with the design being characterized by the bare and undecorated façades of the upper floors. The building, with its green Greek marble entrance, occupies a commanding position oppositeVienna’sImperialPalace. Inside, the business floors are made opulent through the use of rich red wood panelling however they are minimalist in form.

Built for Joseph and Marie Rufer, Rufer House (1922) is considered to be the first built house to include Loos’ concept of Raumplan, which is a floorplan made of split levels to extend variety and order into the space. Rufer House is organised within a tight 10 metre x 10 metre space, in the shape of a cube with the external walls forming the structural shell. Inside, a column articulates the spaces under the Raumplan and also conceals the plumbing.

The principles of Loos’ architecture are even more illustrated in Villa Muller (1930). Again the exterior is austere, a white cube structure interrupted by yellow-framed windows. The interior, however, is in stark contrast to the simplicity of the façade. Once again Loos has used luxurious materials to decorate the interior. Slabs of green Greek marble encase some of the walls; parts of the house are panelled with mahogany and laquered wood, Delfttiles, silk prints, floral wallpaper and travertine. Each floor is a classic example of Loos’ Raumplan with split-levels, short staircases and multiple landings. The use of quadrilateral negative spaces along with grid and square motifs echo Loos’ earlier works. These, together with a definitive use of contrasting colours, especially terracotta and green contribute to the house’s aesthetic appeal.

Therefore it can be asserted that the major characteristics of Loos’ work are the use of rich materials chosen for their appropriateness, exceptional craftsmanship, frequent use of marble in the structure of a building, contrasting colours, wooden parquet flooring, chain suspended lighting, stepped floor levels, geometrical design based upon the grid and the cube with cylindrical and rectangular columns, and expressively austere facades with sumptuous interiors.

Bibliography:

http://agram.saariste.nl/scripts/index.asp?dir=loos&pics=lo&tekst=Adolf%A0Loos

http://architecture.about.com/od/greatarchitects/p/loos.htm

http://architect.architecture.sk/adolf-loos-architect/adolf-loos-architect.php

http://www.mullerovavila.cz/english/raum-e.html

Niemra, A. 1998-2203, Rules to Build By: The Path Taken to Understanding Adolf Loos, Anneke.Net

Safran, Yahuda, 1985, The Architecture of Adolf Loos, Arts Council of Great Britain

Van Duzer, L., 1994, Villa Muller: a work of Adolf Loos, Princeton Architectural Press