Novel Architecturale


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29/20. Ambiguity and tension are everywhere in an architecture of complexity and contradiction. Architecture is form and substance--abstract and concrete--and its meaning derives from its interior characteristics and its particular context. An architectural element is perceived as form and structure, texture and material. These oscillating relationships, complex and contradictory, are the source of the ambiguity and tension characteristic to the medium of architecture. The conjunction "or" with a question mark can usually describe ambiguous relationships. The Villa Savoye: is it a square plan or not?

30/23. Contradictory levels of meaning and use in architecture involve the paradoxical contrast implied by the conjunction "yet." They may be more or less ambiguous. Le Corbusier's Shodan House is closed yet open--a cube, precisely closed by its corners, yet randomly opened on its surfaces; his Villa Savoye is simple outside yet complex inside.

47/41. Indeed a propensity to break the order can justify exaggerating it. A valid formalism, or a kind of paper architecture in this context, compensates for distortions, expediencies, and exceptions in the circumstantial parts of the composition, or for violent superimpositions in juxtaposed contradictions. In recent architecture Le Corbusier in the Villa Savoye, for example, accommodates the exceptional circumstantial inconsistencies in an otherwise rigid, dominant order.

54/45. These types of contradiction occur in the work of Le Corbusier. Contrasts in the plans of the Villa Savoye and the Assembly Building in Chandigarh correspond to those in the elevations of the Villa Pignatelli and the Villa Palomba. In the Villa Savoye the positions of some of the columns in the rectangular bay system adjust slightly to accommodate to particular spatial needs--one column is moved and another removed. In the Assembly Building although the grid of columns also adjusts to the exceptional plastic form of the assembly hall, in the juxtaposition of the hall itself and the grid, they do not adapt--the juxtaposition is violent and uncompromising not only on plan but also in sections, where it appears to have been thrust violently into the grid.

55/48. Le Corbusier today is a master of the eventful exception, another technique of accommodation. He breaks the order of the bays in the ground floor of the Villa Savoye by moving one column and removing another, as I have shown, to accommodate exceptional circumstances involving space and circulation. In this eloquent compromise Le Corbusier makes the dominant regularity of the composition more valid.

58/52. In the Villa Savoye, again, the exceptional diagonal of the ramp is clearly expedient in section and elevations and allows Le Corbusier to create a strong opposition to the regular order of column bays and envelope. This attitude contrasts greatly with that of Wright, whose insistence on horizontal continuity at the expense of all else is well known. Even in the unusually exposed stair at Fallingwater Wright suppresses all diagonals: there are no strings or railings, but only the horizontal plans of the treads and the vertical lines of the rods from which the stair is hung. Similarly, in the interior Wright hides the stairs between walls (as he does in virtually all his houses), while Le Corbusier glories in the expressed diagonals of the ramp and the continuous diagonal of the spiral stair. We have already seem how Le Corbusier accommodates architecture intimately to the exceptional need of the automobile in the Villa Savoye. But Wright's order allows no inconsistencies: the bridge is perpendicular and analogous to the order of the house and the curving path of the automobile is not recognized. The driveway is like a path in the woods begrudgingly dotted in plan. That the car can turn is almost fortuitous.

72-73/70-71. The Villa Savoye with its wall openings which are, significantly, holes rather than interruptions, restricts any flowing space rigidly to the vertical direction. But there is a spatial implication beyond that of enclosure which contrasts it with the Johnson Wax Building. Its severe, almost square exterior surrounds an intricate interior configuration glimpsed through openings and from protrusions above. In this context the tense image of the Villa Savoye from within and without displays a contrapuntal resolution of severe envelope partly broken and intricate interior partly revealed. Its inside order accommodates the multiple functions of a house, domestic scale, and partial mystery inherent in a sense of privacy. Its outside order expresses the unity of the idea of house at an easy scale appropriate to the green field it dominated and possibly to the city it will one day be part of.

86/84. Contradiction, or at least a contrast, between the inside and the outside, is an essential characteristic of urban architecture, but it is not only an urban phenomenon. Besides the Villa Savoye and obvious examples like the domestic Greek temples of the Greek Revival which were crammed expediently with series of cells, the Renaissance villa such as Hawksmoor's Easton Neston or Westover in Virginia juxtaposed symmetrical fašades on asymmetrical plans.

Exerpts from Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966/1977).

2005.09.08 10:54
are the origins common ? can we prove it ?
Do a thesis on the commonality of brainwashing within architectural education within say the last two to three decades. Brainwashing in the sense of becoming blind to what is otherwise self evident. For example, is the Villa Savoye really a house? Yes, it's design intention was for it to be a house, but that's not what it really turned out to be, is it?

2005.09.08 12:04
are the origins common ? can we prove it ?
I was yesterday thinking of the Villa Savoye as a museum, perhaps specifically a museum of Modern architecture even?



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