Sunday, March 10, 2013

Neither Up Nor Down

Recently I wrote a short piece about the joys of elevated walkways and ambiguous ground levels for Matzine, an architecture fanzine edited by Stephen Mackie and Sean McAlister. Here's the opening few paragraphs and a link to read the rest:

In her book Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media, Beatriz Colomina contrasts Adolf Loos’ use of the stair with Le Corbusier’s employment of the ramp in their respective house designs. Colomina notes that Loos’ stairs often perform a theatrical role, acting as an architectural promenade that gives views onto the ‘stage’ of domestic life. Loos’ domestic compositions hinge around a spiralling upward motion with the stair at the centre linking a series of spaces that Colomina codes as either stage or theatre box.

By contrast, she notes that the ramp in Le Corbusier’s work suggests a more cinematic experience, one where we move through the a series of ‘cuts’ in the domestic realm, analogous to the montage effects of film. While Loos’ stair opens onto a series of discrete stage-like rooms, Le Corbusier’s ramp passes through several different spaces simultaneously.

Colomina likens this movement to the action of the film camera. The ramp exploits a desire for fluidity and movement amid the flows and eddies of contemporary urban experience. It’s a compelling observation and one that also seems to capture the shift from Loos’ work, with its fragments of plush 19th century life, to Le Corbusier’s thoroughly 20th century sensibility.

The ramp thus forms a key component within modern architecture, suggesting almost a mechanisation of the act of walking or traversing space. It also allows a greater fluidity between the different levels and floorplates of buildings and the spaces between them. Being neither up now down becomes a valid destination in its own right...... can download the rest of the essay here

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