Friday, November 29, 2013

Lifting Architecture Off the Ground

I want to take you back to 1930. This Modern house was designed by Le Corbusier, the most important architect of the 20th century. It is called Villa Savoye (pronounced Savo-a). Le Corbusier saw himself as a messiah and believed that architecture could change the world. A chapter in his book is titled “Architecture or Revolution.” You must understand that because architecture is so expensive to build it has historically served the the very rich and powerful. Le Corbusier believed that new technologies of his time could raise the standard of living for everyone and minimize the divide between the rich and the poor.

This house is a good example of Le Corbusier’s 5 Points of Architecture: (1) Instead of using walls to support upper floors, he could now use pilotis, many thin pillars with steel inside them; (2) Because walls are no longer carrying the weight of the building, they can be placed freely on each floor, creating a free plan; (3) The same is true for the free facade, meaning that the front of the building can be designed like an abstract painting; (4) the roof garden allowed him to reproduce the natural ground above the building; and finally (5) the horizontal window creates an abstract view from the inside, cutting off the ground and the sky. Whew!

Actually Jeffrey Kipnis says that all 5 points are about lifting architecture off the ground. In his view, creating a new abstract ground frees us from a feudal society where ownership of land represented power over the poor.

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