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The Floating Modern: Pilotis and the Free Plan

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Comparative Research paper between Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House.

Text of The Floating Modern: Pilotis and the Free Plan

  • TheFloatingModern:PilotisandtheFreePlan

    PaperbyNickTanner

    Arch6237CaseStudy:Modernism

    Dr.OleW.Fischer

    UniversityofUtahCollegeofArchitectureandPlanning

    SaltLakeCity,Utah

    2011(Submitted5May2011)

  • TableofContents

    I. IntrotoFloatingArchitectureHistroyandDefinition................................................... 1

    II. BackgroundonArchitects LeCorbusier.......................................................... 2 MiesvanderRohe..................................................... 4III. CaseStudies VillaSavoye........................................................... 5 FarnsworthHouse..................................................... 9 ContemporaryProjects................................................. 17IV. Conclusion FunctionorAesthetic...................................................17 Meaning/Symbolism...................................................17

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    TheFloatingModern:pilotisandthefreeplan

    I. IntrotoFloatingArchitecture

    Themodernistmovementfacilitatedmanynewideasintheformalarrangementandconceptualapproachtoarchitecturaldesign.TheideaofanelevatedorfloatingarchitecturewasexploredanddevelopedthroughthefirstpointofLeCorbusiersFivePointsofNewArchitecture.LudwigMiesvanderRohealsoinvestigatedthisideawithminimalisticdesigns.ThispaperwillmakeacomparisonandanalysisastowhatisTheFloatingModernandhowitwasdevelopedthroughLeCorbusierandMiesvanderRohe.Thispaperwillevaluateeachoftheirearlycareersandprominentprojectsthatleduptotheirprimeexamplesoffloatingarchitecture.Throughthisjourney,wewilldiscoverhowfloatingarchitecturecametobe,whatmakesitsuccessful,whatitmeansandifithaspotentialtoday.

    Inclassicalarchitecture,oneelementofdesigntocreatespaceswasthe

    column.Servingprimarilyasasupportfunction,composedofthreeparts:thebase,shaftandcapital.LookingattheDoriccolumnwhichincorporatedanentasis,orsculptingofcolumnswithlargerradiusinthemiddlethanoneitherend,makingthemseemtoflexlikeamuscleundertheweightoftheentablature.(Prina,2008,p.375)Theintentionofthecolumnwastogroundthebuildingtothesiteandpreventvisualappearanceofthebuildingslantingoutwards.IntheParthenon,Athensconstructed44738BCE,thearrangementandformofthecolumnsisusedtocompensateforthevisualimpressionoftheoutwardinclinationcausedbytheluminosityoftheskyagainstwhichtheyareprojected.(Prina,2008,p.38)

    Theideaoffloatingtakestheuseofthecolumnanddeliberatelybreaksthelink

    totheground.Therearemanywaystoexpressthenotionoffloating.Somesynonymsoffloatincluderaising,lifting,elevating,keepingadrift,bringingup,andsuspending.Itcanalsobeassociatedwithhovering,flying,gliding,soaring,andlevitating.Ithasa

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    senseofbeingaboveandweightlessness.Itisoftenrelatedtowater,buoyancy,watercraftandaircraft.ThisissignificantbecauseofCorbusiersinterestintheMachineAgeandthepowerfulformsofbeautyfoundinoceanlinersandairplanes.(TowardanArchitecture,2011,Wikipedia)II. BackgroundonArchitectsLeCorbusier

    CharlesEdouardJeanneret,whochangedhisnameatage33toLeCorbusier,wasborninLaChauxdeFonds,Switzerlandon6October1887toGeorgeEdwardandMarieCharlotteAmlie.Hismotherwasamusicteacherwhilehisfatherwasawatchengraverandenameller.Attheageoffour,hebeganhiscreativelifepathbyattendingprimaryschoolatLaChauxdeFonds,akindergartenthatusedFrobelianteachingmethods.Thisteachingapproachsuggests,Thatchildrenlearnbyplaying.(FriedrichFroebel,2011)Later,in1900hestudiedwatchengravingwithhisteacherCharlesLEplattenier.In1904,atage17,hebeganstudyingintheAdvancedDecorativeArtsCoursealsotaughtbyLEplattenier.LEplattenierwastheteacherthatsparkedCorbusiersinterestinarchitecture.LEplatteniersparticularinfluenceonJeanneretwasthatheexpectedtheyoungmantobeatthesametimethearchitectandtheartist.ThiswastohavelastingeffectonJeanneretaswouldthespecialrelationshipofmastertostudentaspracticedbyLEplattenier.(Sekler,1977,p.305)Corbusierhadhisfirstrealarchitecturaldesignex

    periencewhenLouisFalletcommissionedCorbusiertodesignavilla.HeteamedupontheprojectwiththearchitectReneChapallaz.In1907,twoyearsafterthecompletionofVillaFallet,hebeganaseriesoftravelsthroughoutEurope.

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    ItalywasthefirststopinhisfiveyearEuropeanjourneyfollowedbyvisitstoAustria,France,Germany,Bulgaria,TurkeyandGreece.Duringallhistravels,hemademanysketches,tooknotesandphotographs.Whiletraveling,hehadotheropportunitiestoexpandhisdesignskills.CorbusierworkedhalftimeasadrafterforAugusteandGustavePerretinParisin1908.

    WhilevisitingGermany,twoyearslater,atage23,hearrivedattheofficeofPe

    terBehrenswherehestayeduntil1911.Hisexperiencetherewasdissatisfying.AtBehrenssofficeonedoesnotmakepurearchitecture,onlythefaade.(Frampton,2001,p.13)WhileatBehrenssoffice,hemetMiesvanderRoheandWalterGropius.AfterleavingBehrensoffice,hecontinuedtouringEasternEuropeincludingGreece,andItaly.(FoudationLeCorbusier,2011)

    In1918,LeCorbusierwasintroducedtothecubistartistAmedeeOzenfantbyhisformeremployerAugustePerret.Together,CorbusierandOzenfantestablishedthePuriststyleofpainting.Thisstyleofpaintingwasinspiredbymachineryandthegoldensection(seefigure4).Thegoldensectionisarectangle,whichisderivedfromaunitsquarebycreatinganarcwiththecenterpointatthemidpointofoneofthesidesofthesquare.The

    radiusofthearcisadiagonallineextendingtoacornerofthesquareandrotatedtothehorizontalplane.Itrejectedthedecorativetrendofcubismandadvocatedareturntoclear,orderedformsthatwereexpressiveofthemodernmachineage.During19181922,hefocusedondevelopingthepuristtheoryanddidnotconstructanybuildings.Alsoduringthistime,heinitiatedajournalcalledLEspritNouveau.ThismovementfocusedonhavingtheaestheticoftheDeStijlbutbeclassicalin

    spirit.(Colquhoun,2002,139)Whileinthisperiodofreinventinghimself,hechangedhisnametoLeCorbusier,whichwasderivedfromhismaternalgrandfather,Lecorbesier.

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    MiesVanDerRohe

    LudwigMieswasbornalittleoverayearandahalfbeforeLeCorbusier.MieswasborninAachen,GermanyonMarch27,1886totheownerofastoneyard.Forhisearlyeducation,heattendedtheCathedralSchoolofAachenuntilagethirteen,andthenattendedatradeschooluntilagefifteen.Duringhisearlyyears,heapprenticedinhisfather'sstonecuttingyard,becomingaJourneymanBrickMason.Thisopportunitygavehimtheknowledgeoftheconstraintsofmaterials.In1905,atagenineteen,MiesworkedinBerlinfortwoyearsforanotedfurnituredesigner,BrunoPaul.Thisexperiencelenthimthefamiliarityofwoodanditsrestrictionsandcapabilities.AttheageoftwentyonewhenheleftBrunoPaul'soffice,Miesreceivedhisfirstcommission,theRielhouse.ThisstyleofdesignreflectedJapanesearchitecture.In1908,attheageof22,MiesbeganworkforPeterBehrens,andhisprominentteamofarchitecturalinnovationists.HereMieswastosupervisetheconstructionofBehrensGermanEmbassyinSt.Petersburg.WhileworkingforBehrensMiesmetandmarriedAdaBruhrn,theyhadthreedaughterstogether.

    Shortlyafterleavingthearmyin1919,Miesstartedtodesignincrediblymodem

    buildings.Glasshadnotbeenconsideredastheprimematerialofarchitecture;Mieswantedtochangethatwayofthinking.MieswascommissionedtobuildtheGermanPavilionforInternationalExpositionatBarcelonain1929,knownastheBarcelonaPavilion.Thelargeoverhangcantileverroofisanearlyexpressionoftheideaoffloatingarchitecture.Thebuildinghadnopracticalpurpose,butthebuildingitselfwastheobjectoftheexposition.Mies'Europeanmasterpiecewasdestroyedaftertheexpositionwasoverin1930.MieswasmadetheDirectorofBauhausSchoolatDessauin1930.Twoyearslatertheschoolwasclosed.(Vandenberg,2003,p.59)During19311938Miesdesignedaseriesofprojectsforidealhouseswhereunbrokenexteriorwallsenclosedahouseorgarden.(Zimmerman,2006,p.92)MiescametotheUnitedStatesin1937atage

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    51,andayearlaterhebecametheDirectoroftheArmourInstitute,nowcalledtheIllinoisInstituteofTechnology.

    Despitebeingbuiltseventeenyearsapart,theVillaSavoyebyLeCorbusier&theFarnsworthHousebyMiesvanderRohearetimelesspiecesofarchitectureandhavemanysimilarcharacteristicsrelatingtotheideaoffloatingarchitecture.ThefollowingillustrationsfromPrecedentsinArchitecture,ThirdEditionalongwithmyowndescriptionandadditionalreferenceswillpresenttheseformativeideasandanalyticdiagramsforanexplorationofeachdesign,whichstrengthenthenotionoffloatingarchitecture.III. CaseStudiesVillaSavoye

    In1914whileCorbusierworkedwithhiscousinPierreJeanneret,hedevelopedtheideaoftheMaisonDomino.Thiscreatedasystemstructureskeletonindependentoftheplanofthehouse.Thisdesigncreatedaformmadeofstandardcomponentsallowinggreatdiversityinhomeinteriorlayout.(FoundationLeCorbusier,2011)Itisbelievedthatthenamingofthisdesignschemecamefromthemergingoftwowords,domicileandinnovation.(Frampton,2011,p.21)

    BeforebeginningtheVillaSavoye,LeCorbusierhadavillathatwasanotableprecedent.VillaSchwabwasthefirstoccasiononwhichCorbusieremployedtheGoldenSectionaswellasapplyingregulationlinestocontroltheelevationschemes.

    [Figure1a]ThestructureofVillaSavoye,built19291931,beginsonafourbaybyfourbayconcretecolumnargridsofpilotis.Thisgridformsanuninterruptedequidistantperimeterofcolumnsspaced4.75mapartinbothdirections.Initiallythedesigncalled

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    for5meterspacingbuttheclientrequestedtoreducesomeofthecostsandthesmallerspacingresulted.Theinteriorspacingofcolumnsisnotasconsistentwithadditionalcolumnoffgridatthecoreoftheplanwheretherampandstairsarelocated.Itiswiththepilotisthattheideaoffloatingarchitectureisrealized.FrancescaPrinadescribesthefunctionofthepilotisas:Theyliftthehouseofftheground,freeingitfromthedampnessoftheearthandincreasingitsaccesstolightandair.Moreover,Theyopenupthegroundfloorandmakeitusable;theareagainedcanbecomepartofthegarden,asisalsothecasewiththehousesroofterrace.(Prina,2008,p.93)Further,theintentionofthepilotisistoraisethebuildingssothattheywouldappeartobefloating,celestialobjects.(Sbriglio,1999,p.49)Corbusier'spilotiperformanumberoffunctionsaroundthehouse,bothinsideandout.Onthetwolongerelevations,theyareflushwiththefaceofthefaadeandimplyheavine