Having done the reading on The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism, it is interesting to note that there is another view towards architecture – sexuality. The book Sexuality & Space discusses the relationship between sexuality and the hidden spaces in daily practices. Philosophies of sexuality are being reread in architectural expressions and vice-versa. Having such interpretations dislodges architecture, and it is questioning how space is already emblazoned to sexuality. In this reflection, I will be discussing the views of two theorists’ architects – Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, and how their works have influenced modern architecture.
Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect who was known to be one of the starters of modern architecture and design. The houses he created usually have dull exterior, but the interiors were decorated with costly materials such as marble and also displaying patterns and textures. He was also fascinated in ornamental art, having a collection in silver and high-grade leather which is plain but luxurious. Loos noted that the difference in decoration is not amongst “complicated and simple” but amongst “organic and superfluous”.
Loos create houses that have a central space, people will always be drawn back to relook the same area they have passed through rather than viewing a new upcoming space. Such an example is the Muller house where the raised sitting area still overlooks the living room which people have just entered from. The arrangement of spaces shadows an accumulative sense of privacy. Playing with space arrangement allows the most private area to have an advantage, overlooking the common areas where guests would be at. The Moller house has the same concept. Comfort is not only just sensual but a psychological dimension as well. There is a feeling of stability from the way the couch is placed. When people climb up the stairs and sees the sofa, they will take a while to identify the person convening on the sofa. While the person sitting on the sofa would immediately recognize the person walking up the stairs. Loos also refer to a theatre box which is a concept between claustrophobia and agoraphobia, saying that one would get claustrophobia if they are not able to look outside of the house. This spatial-psychological method could be interpreted as superiority and regulatory. Comfort in the Moller house is linked to both intimacy and power within the home.
Theater boxes is a concept used by Loos, and they are marked as female, the familial personality of the furniture contrast with that one the male. The elevated alcove not only oversees the common spaces but are specially placed; where private areas are hidden away. Theatre boxes give protection but attract attention at the same time. When entering the Moller house, one’s eyes do not rest until they reach the raised alcove of the theatre box, above the common area. Architecture is not just a place that house was viewing subjects, but it is a mechanism that makes the subject, framing the inhabitant. Houses are stages for the theatre of different families. It is not the same as a work of art where the object is being judged. Instead, it should be viewed as an environment, like a stage.
Other works of Loos include the Steiner house, where he used a mirror to reflect light from the outside, lighting up the interior and at the same time, portraying a self-portrait to the outside world. In the Rufer house, Loos uses the concept of physical separation and visual connection in many of the interiors. For example, the dining room and music room are two separate rooms, but the full opening suggests a visual link between the two.
For Loos earlier houses, one’s eyes are ushered towards the interior and turning its back on the outside realm. However, for the Josephine Baker house, it is reversed. The most private part of the house which is the swimming pool immediately catches the eyes of visitors. This is the opposite of the earlier described theatre box; it is like an entertainment piece now where visitors watch the inhabitants like a star in a movie while in the previous examples the resident watches the guests. The difference between sight and other physical senses shown in Loos interior is very clearly stated in his philosophy of architecture.
Another concept that Loos uses is clothing fashion. Interior is like a pre-Oedipal space, somewhat like clothing; where the seamstress has to select the different kinds of fabric and slowly but carefully creating a piece of clothing. The interior of a house is like clothes to the inhabitants and shields their privacy. On the other hand, outside of Loos houses is like a mask, only for show and relates to a dinner jacket, a masculinity reference. These type of houses can still be seen in modern architecture today and is exceptionally popular in residential areas where people want a warm and cosy feeling. These type of concept is very popular with Japanese. Here is an example of a minimalist modern house in Japan.
Inhabitants of these type of houses want a secure feeling and do not like an open concept, unlike Le Corbusier’s works, which we will now discuss.
Le Corbusier was a Swiss and French architect and was also known to be one of the starters of modern architecture and design. 17 of Le Corbusier’s works had been listed as “Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement by UNESCO World Heritage Site. He focused on hypothetical architecture studies using contemporary methods such as reinforced concrete. With this, he could do things like submerging the house behind a glass wall and have more space for his designs to play around.
His methods were very different from Loos. Le Corbusier like to keep things open, not restricting the viewer’s sight from looking out of the windows. Viewers are often drawn to the circumference of Le Corbusier’s houses. He wants inhabitants to view the houses like frames.
Le Corbusier uses the concept of motion and cannot be viewed as static positions. The problem with current occupation is to occupy first. This means to seize that picture. For example, architecture is created in the head then being drawn out. After that is being done, the architect then searches for the site with the house already imagined in his mind and is penned like a frame for the picture. Le Corbusier believes the comparative independence of architecture and place. In the real site, he pictures an artificial site. However, it shouldn’t be taken that architecture is different from a place. What matters is the sight, with the view in mind, it can be illustrated in many different places. Windows are essential for sight; hence it is in all of Le Corbusier’s modern works. In Rio de Janeiro, Le Corbusier created a collection of drawings that show the connection between place and sight. The house is then built in front of the sight where the windows are like a massive screen for viewing. Windows also serve another role of fusing ventilation and light. It is a component of inside and outside, creating a harmony between place and sight, rather than viewing it as the outside from the inside. The inhabitants of Le Corbusier’s houses usually get confused at first, because it seems like he is a visitor, unlike Loos houses. Le Corbusier’s subjects are often lost in his own home.
Le Corbusier’s idea of an open concept building is very popular in recent architecture. Many buildings in major cities adopt this concept and personally I too, especially like this type of buildings as it gives a very fresh and clean look. Most modern office towers have this concept and an example is DUO, Singapore’s newest addition to its skyline.
The inhabitants of Loos houses are the performance actors. Center of Loos houses are left for the performance, but the inhabitants usually take the surrounding areas. The inhabitant is divided between actor and viewer of its play. In comparison, the inhabitants of Le Corbusier’s houses are the movie actor who is lost not only from his scene but himself as well. The windows in his designs are a form of communication. Le Corbusier’s architecture is made by appealing the mass media while Loos is about his statement of architecture fashion. In Loos design, the English suit was the face necessary to support the individual in modern settings of subsistence. He compared the masculinity of British fashion to the softer side of women’s. In Le Corbusier’s design, this is not enough and troublesome. Instead, he compliments women’s fashion over men as it had evolved. Men’s fashion is painful but attracts the gaze while women’s fashion is practical and changes to modern time which attracts a different kind of gaze.
Both architects work is being seen in modern day’s architecture, and the ideologies each of them have been adopted by various people. I would say the future direction of architecture will be with Le Corbusier, as people want to experience the landscape in their own homes. They want to be always mesmerised and treated to what the frames out of the windows are showing them.