Saturday, 8 December 2012

Esther McCoy on the Schindler House

Pauline Schindler's studio, also where McCoy worked as a draftswoman for Schindler.

At first glance, the Schindler House does not explain itself. In order to understand it, an insightful effort is required. It is, superficially, a combination of concrete and Japanese timber framing. The concrete panels set a rhythm, but was interrupted by at the corners when the timber frame and the sliding canvas doors altered the tempo. It was both lean and rich. The walls and floors were unfinished, and the solid masonry dissolved at the corners by the extending wood fascia. From the structure and plan came the richness. Doubled members, spanning each room, provide support for lightweight and movable partition walls.  

There is both economy and ampleness in the floor plan. Economy is achieved by repetition and by limiting the number of rooms. The ampleness is the size and beautiful disposition of the space of the rooms. There are four major rooms, all of the same size and plan… Each couple was given two studio rooms; the two formed an L, which half enclosed a garden. The garden was designed as an outdoor living room. This was a great economy and also a chance to give more privacy to each couple, for the second L faced in the opposite direction. It was a case of unity and separation… The two pairs of studios were connected by a kitchen, shared by the Schindlers and Chaces. [It] is a minor room, reflecting the attitude which had crystallized by 1920 that equality was possible and desirable… The floor plan, nearly always a reflection of the status of women, here indicated that women might well spend less time in the kitchen (Morgan, 104).

Schindler was preoccupied with the cube; his rooms and houses were based upon cubes, fractured in design. He carved these spaces’ geometry so carefully that they seemed detached and formed a hierarchy of spaces that would then rejoin the whole. Other, smaller details naturally followed this precedent. The unit furniture chair that he designed “created volumes, planes, voids, and then turned into their opposites (Morgan, 105). 
Schindler drew himself with a pencil. Every detail, form, space had the solitude he himself required and planned for each resident of the Schindler House. 

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