Monday, September 26, 2005

Organicism and the International Style assignment

Although the theory and methods behind the International Style and the Organicism movement are for the most part divergent, each used glass to express some of their tenets. In order to compare and contrast how the two philosophical positions utilized glass, one can examine the Glass House by Philip Johnson and Thorncrown Chapel by Fay Jones.

Both the Glass House and Thorncrown are renowned for their expression of International Style and Organicist ideals respectively. However, the underlying agendas and ideas behind the two buildings were quite different.

First, Johnson’s International Style proposed a style of architecture that would be universally applicable to all regions and nations. The result of such a goal is a lack of much (if any) regional flavor. It seems that the International Style movement was more concerned with making a statement and dictating “the answer” to all design-related situations than it was concerned with creating architecture that complemented a specific area. The Glass House is an example of this philosophy. Johnson saw the house as a stage for life, not necessarily as a functioning house. The transparent glass walls help facilitate the idea of the house as a stage, since life within is viewable to outsiders. It was conceptualized more as an object in space, much like a piece of art on exhibit in a museum. It doesn’t matter where the piece is located, because it is what it will be wherever it is located. The Glass House would still be a glass box whether it was built in Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Abu Dhabi.

Thorncrown Chapel, on the other hand, is very much connected with its region. In all of his work, Fay Jones sought to foster a strong connection between the natural and built environments as well as the region where the building is located. Thorncrown Chapel features several key conceptual elements which tie it to its site and region. First, the material palette is very simple, locally obtainable, and natural (primarily wood and stone). The glass walls’ primary purpose is to dematerialize the building so that it integrates with its environment visually. This is reinforced by the verticality of the structural members which combine to form a manmade “forest canopy”, further blending with the surrounding site which is heavily wooded. Jones’ overriding sensitivity to the site is reflected in the design, which serves as an example of the Organicism Movement’s interest in the ideas of region-specific and site-specific architecture.

Both Thorncrown and the Glass House used glass to further the philosophies and goals of their respective architects and styles. Both buildings are glass boxes, but it is Thorncrown that transcends its base identity of a glass box and enters into a symbiotic relationship with its site and region. Johnson’s Glass House, on the other hand, could be packed up into crates and shipped across the globe, unpacked, and reconstructed and it would remain an object in a field, lacking any real connection with whatever plot of land it is dropped upon. With that said, it should be noted that both buildings succeed in realizing their respective architects’ visions of how and in what manner should a building connect with its site.


Post a Comment

<< Home