Following on from my blog on 5 key houses of the 20th century (click here to read it) I couldn't believe it when I came across some of the houses immortalised in Lego!
Since starting my own business, one of the best things is allowing myself the time to go back to first principles on projects. This opens up a much more creative thought process.
Recently I've been really enjoying some research into key houses of the 20th Century. This list is in no way exhaustive, but highlights a handful of the seminal works.
Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867-1959 Bear Run, Pennsylvania, USA, 1935-37
This was designed as a replacement for the client's pre-fabricated weekend home, in the woods of west Pennsylvania.
The house is perched on top of the very rock from which they swam and fished, cantilevered using reinforced concrete.
Details include a flight of steps descending from a hatch in the living-room floor to hover just above the surface of the stream and three tree trunks through the floor of a terrace.
But for many years after the completion of the house, the client, Kaufmann has invested time and money in supporting the cantilever without ruining the aesthetic.
Schroder House Gerrit Rietveld, 1888-1964Utrecht, The Netherlands; 1923-24
This house was the vision of the De Stijl group of painters and designers, most famously including Piet Mondrian.
Designed and constructed from a series of coloured lines and planes, Reitveld used his Furniture Designer skills to make walls slide, fold vertically and horizontally to constantly reinvent the space. Made from brick and render, rather than concrete, the house was built for Truus Schroder-Schrader and her three young children.
Wardrobes double as partitions, desks are extensions of windowsills, and beds are plain, boxed mattresses On the lower floor, the plan is fairly conventional, with loadbearing walls forming distinct rooms, on the first floor an ingenious system of sliding partitions either subdivides the space for daily living or opens it up for entertaining.
Villa Savoye Le Corbusier, 1887-1965 Poissy France; 1931
Le Corbusier's body of work is enormous and I could have picked many examples. But this one is arguably the best of the Purist villas.
This shows a handful of key principles, what he had identified as the 'five points of a new architecture':pilotis, roof garden, free plan, free facade, long windows...the piloti, the columns raising the main body of the house up, allows for the landscape to flow under the house and the off centre stair tower allows roof access, to a roof garden.
The basic arrangement of forms and spaces is very simple: a shallow box, almost square on plan, is provided with long windows on all four sides and raised off the ground on pilotis. The size of the box is dictated by two fixed factors: the maximum gradient of a pedestrian ramp and the minimum turning circle of a car.
Wichita House Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895-1983 Wichita, Kansas, USA; 1947
This house came about after the second World War hoping to retain staff at the American aircraft factories.
Fuller began with the Dymaxion Deployment Unit, which was basically a converted agricultural storage bin and in this Dymaxion based house,included prefabricated Dymaxion Bathroom pods that Fuller had invented for the Phelps Dodge Corporation.
The house had a circular plan and a streamlined profile to reduce wind resistance and heat loss.
A rotating roof vent resembling a big weathervane controlled the interior air flow. All mechanical services, including two Dymaxion Bathrooms, were concentrated in a central core. Otherwise, the plan was cut like a cake into five slices — living room, two bedrooms, kitchen and entrance hall — by fat, radial partitions incorporating rotating storage devices.
Vanna Venturi House Robert Venturi, 1925—Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; 1962-64
This is the first example of Postmodern Architecture, so heavily used in the corporate boom of the 80s and 90s, and a major influence on current residential architecture-although not knowingly!
Questioning the values of the Modernist Movement-Form follows Function, Robert Venturi dared to question why this should be. Why, for example, should the outsides of buildings necessarily reflect the insides? Why should buildings always be as simple as possible-, why could they not also be complex? And what would a building look like that was contradictory rather than consistent?
Referring back to Mannerist and Baroque architecture, Venturi wrote in his seminal book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1964). The house itself, although very small — it has five habitable rooms — the house looks bigger than it is. The front elevation is a wide, symmetrical gable like a classical broken pediment, with the main entrance in the middle.
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