Anthology of Houses – Part I

In this blog series we shall discuss some interesting aspects about architecture of houses in three parts. We shall be uploading similar lecture on architecture and urbanism in our YouTube channel “betweenarchitectureandurbanism”. Part I of architecture of houses series shall discuss the formative years of modernism and experimentations. Houses have always remained as theoretical excursions or playfield to reinvent architecture and set new cannons for contemporary paradigm in Architecture. The history of houses has showed such tendencies during early modern phase and gained its momentum subsequently in passage of time, and every paradigm that has emerged, there has been a house on which it was experimented on.

Architecture of houses always dealt with duality of transfer of form vs. concern for program. The harder the contrast between two, the more it sets the challenge to the contemporary means, that is representation and technology. The house as a template of modular construction that was first imagined by Jean Durand teacher and architect in early 18th century. His system of design using simple modular elements anticipated components in modern industrialized building. This could be perhaps early experimentation in imagination of houses with modular elements for space making and construction.

House as a simple appliance was operative metaphor, Bauhaus sets new experiment with houses as a systematic theoretical & rational research into formal, technical and economic field. It attempted to derive form of a house from its natural functions and limitations of the material. Such research into nature of objects led to the result that emerged from a determined consideration of all the modern method of production and construction. The formal handling of volumes nevertheless convincingly demonstrated the sharp aesthetic presence in reduction of a cube.

The minimum form and maximum function set new alignment to the aesthetic of house form. The rationality & vitality of program remained constant victim for seeking new language of Architecture. Architecture of house derived from construction technology on one side while object of industrial production on other side, which decided the aesthetics and language of modern house. The tectonic of houses were very minimal, formed by subtraction or addition to a cubic volume endowed with standard fenestration and details.

The Bauhaus attempted to contribute to the development of housing to the finished dwelling form the simplest appliances appropriate to that time. The architecture of houses brought about rare freshness with clean aesthetics and timelessness qualities. The Bauhaus school destined to achieve the systematic theoretical and practical research into formal, technical and economical field- to derive the form of an object from its natural function & limitation.

The rigorous rejection of all representational reference, including the cubist and purist. Nature was too material, too individual, universal art allowed only for abstract composition, as an equilibrium of position and weight of colour. The philosophical foundation of De Stijl was embedded in such belief that art requires to bring universal quality, and stay away from any contextual references.

The form of Schroder house is a cuboid volume, but is “de composed” by horizontal projections and vertical wall and slabs. The formation of plan is strongly embedded into its philosophy towards universality. The spaces are flexible and formed with partitions, almost like the cropped and uncropped lines of Piet Mondrian’s painting. The skin of the house explores the newer way of connecting with the outside. The character of house in reinforced with such projections and articulated them with colour, horizontal lines and vertical lines almost creating sense of asymmetrical equilibrium to the form. The interior is also a reflection of what is outside. The features like windows, railing, furniture is again reflection of overall design philosophy.

The book on ornamentation and crime was not an antagonistic or anti-establishment position, rather it was attempt to articulate the cultural advancement of society during the formation of industrial based society and its association with the everyday object. The Raum Plan or Plan of Volumes rigorous process of representation that is appropriate to industrial society that is social indicator and economic indicator are resulting into spaces that has no definite boundaries. Loos’ stripped-down buildings from any superfluous ornamentation and influenced the minimal massing of modern architecture. Adolf Loos work set away from formalistic tendencies of form to plan in space. The sequencing of spaces was determinant factor of organizing house program, what is known as Raum Plan. It means plan of volume or plan is result of volumetric understanding of various spaces.

The article attemts to brings about some clarity on early formative years of modernism and its impact of articulating how a house form of modern society emerged and went through rigours changes. In next blog we discuss the modern experiments during peak of industrial phase.

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