Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Anomalous House

Schindler had a fascinating approach to early modern architecture, he was ahead of his time. His ideals were different and thus, his house was too.

Light play through window
The Schindler-Chace house was revolutionary because it experimented with the absence of a central heating system. (Hines, 244) While 1920's technology allowed for a comfortable mechanized indoor climate, the Schindlers opted for fireplaces. (Hines, 244) The Schindlers and Chaces adapted to a lifestyle that conditioned them to minimize the bodily discomforts of the cool Los Angeles evenings, not only in the exposed rooftop sleeping baskets, but also in the unheated studios after the fires died.(Hines, 244) The camping lifestyle became more than just a temporary approach to life in Yosemite. It became a lifestyle choice that grew inside Schindler himself, and as any house should be, it became a reflection of life.

What makes 835 North Kings Road unique is Schindler's bohemian design. A graceful aura is captured by the structure, from the way insulite panels are "few, thin and removable," to the adaptive furniture. (Smith, Darling, 124) The house's studios adapt to its users requests. Unlike other homes of the era, many rooms had no default program. The studios are left bare so that a novelist, artist, draftsmen or anyone else could find them accommodating for a creative lifestyle. (Smith, 21) The user is free to turn the space into whatever they want. It's utterly breathtaking that the simplicity of these rooms is so hospitable. Today we adapt rooms for certain needs, add vents, shelves and other built-ins to push a program, to promote a certain type of work, but all we need is the bare essentials. Schindler understood that. He simply made space, and let one breath in it.

Bathroom with concrete bath and counter
The simplicity of the house is hauntingly beautiful. It's meant to embody the idea of mans original home: the cave. (Smith, Darling, 124) The repeated slit window openings, clerestories and redwood framed window walls allow light to dance from the outside into the interior. The bathroom even has one of these slits,  allowing light to illuminate the sink. (Smith, 57) Schindler used poured concrete to match the wall to form the bathtub and vanity, completely unadorned.(Smith, Darling, 124) He opposed the idea of lavish porcelain fixtures. (Smith, Darling, 124) What he wanted to achieve was an indigenous, cave-like feel. Even the fireplaces were left minimal. Instead of a large hearth separated from the ground, Schindler's fireplace sits right on grade, allowing the flames to rise right from the floor. (Smith, Darling, 124) These are just a few of the details that display Schindler's ideas of a modern home, "a timid retreat."

The Schindlers stated that the house was intended to free them of a traditional work day, yet  the house nonetheless required a lot of maintenance. (Smith, 21) The work required had to do with the way the house was built. The wooden surfaces were untreated, and the thin slits of glass fixed between concrete were always victim to cracking. (Hines, 244) To the Schindlers, the idea of a house was grounded in the belief of constructing in a minimal or no refinement approach, or as Pauline Schindler liked to put it, "the essences." (Hines, 244) The essences avoided the practicalities of proper detailing. (Hines, 244) As a result, the house was always under threat from the elements.

The 1922 house was otherworldly for the time, it didn't conform to social expectations of a home. The Schindler Chace House uses a simple material palette and it promotes a simple life through lack of luxury. Yet at the same time, the inhabitants live lavishly knowing that they've got a completely original home. 

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