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Compare and contrast the Muller
House by Adolf Loos, the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier and the Robie House by
Frank Lloyd Wright. What do we learn about the Modern Movement from looking at these
three buildings?


In the modern architectural literature, there a few
iconic buildings that have been instrumental to the modernist movement. These
structures have redefined modern architecture as a school of thought and as a
discipline. Many of these constructions are the result of a certain philosophy
at work, so they can be seen as good case studies of modernist thinking in practice.
The pioneers of the modernist movement include: Le Corbusier, Adolf Loos, and
Frank Lloyd Wright. These architects have slightly different approaches and
philosophies within the modernist movement. They all follow the general
principles of modernism but they express them in different ways and have their
own unique approaches.  Their works are a
good representation of the Modern movement. Hence, this study will analyse one
construction from each one of those architects, the chosen buildings are: The
Muller House by Adolf Loos, The Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier and the Robie
House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The Muller House


The Villa Muller is a building designed in 1930 by
Czech architect Adolf Loos. The villa is situated in Czech Republic, Prague. Mr.
František Müller and Mrs. Milada Müllerová are the clients who the villa Muller
was designed for (Architectuul 2017). This building is an innovative monument
of early modernist architecture, the Villa embodies Loos’ philosophies and
themes that revolve around economy and functionality. The Müller House is an
exemplar of the modernist Raumplan design; which is a method of planning based
on small rooms and large dynamic sections (Thesleepofrigour). This method
accentuates the relative size of individual rooms and often requires steps into
each room or set of rooms (ibid). It is a complex design that aims to avoid the
arrangement of rooms in separated floors and structures the space in a sequence
of stepped areas while distinguishing the height of the ceilings in relation to
the different functions. The exterior of the structure accurately represents
Loos’ philosophy which was proposed in his essay, “Ornament and Crime” in
1908. In the essay, Loos criticized decorated surfaces and argued that
ornaments are unnecessary, hideous and were considered a crime. For the
exterior façade of the building, he designed a plain white, cubic facade. He
also wanted to distinguish between the outside and the inside. The language of
the simple exterior façade is diametrically opposed to the interior which is
lavishly decorated with luxurious furniture and wood, marble, and silk
surfaces. While Frank Lloyd Wright cared about the seamlessness and continuity
of the transition from outside to inside, Loos was deliberately separating the exterior
façade of the public from the private interior of his houses. (Galinsky 2005)
“The building should be dumb outside and only reveal wealth inside.”
(ibid). From the outside, the Villa Müller
is characterized by its austere cubic shape, flat roof, terraces, irregular
windows and its simple white façade. Loos uses the different levels of the
Raumplan to create an “architectural promenade” (Besser et al. 2005). This
seems paradoxical due to the fact that Loos cares about separating the exterior
public from the interior, and yet the word promenade refers to a paved public
walk. He seems to be aiming for a continuous pathway that is interconnected
with all the rooms in some sense. The first entranceway is with dark green and
blue colours, this leads to the cloakroom area that is large in dimensions but
is still low. It is brighter in terms of the colour scheme and the lighting; with
white walls and a big window (ibid). At the end there is a small staircase which
takes the visitor into the double-height, open-plan sitting room. The
“promenade” continues past the elevated dining room and to the upper floors of
the house. On the top level there is a roof terrace, with a window in a
freestanding end wall that frames the view of Prague cathedral (ibid). Adolf
Loos perfectly elucidates his design process when he states: “My architecture
is not conceived by drawings, but by spaces. I do not draw plans, facades or
sections… For me, the ground floor, first floor do not exist… There are
only interconnected continual spaces, rooms, halls, terraces… Each space
needs a different height… These spaces are connected so that ascent and
descent are not only unnoticeable, but at the same time functional.” This
philosophy is demonstrably reflected in the Villa Muller and it demonstrates
Loos’ incredible spatial understanding.










This is a section of the Villa
Muller by Adolf Loos, this illustrates Loos’ ability to organize space and
create his Raumplan design.







The Villa Savoye

The Villa Savoye a modern villa in Poissy, it is
located on the outskirts of Paris, France (Kroll 2010). It was designed by the
modernist Swiss architect Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret (ibid).
It was built in 1931 and the structure primarily comprises reinforced concrete
(Gibson 2005). The villa is a manifesto of Le Corbusier’s “five
points” of new architecture; it represents the basic principles of modern
architecture and is arguably considered one of the best examples of the
International style (Hill 2008). The villa was initially constructed as a
retreat for the Savoye family but later on in 1958, it became the property of
the French government. Eventually it became an official French historical
monument in 1965. It was heavily revamped during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Currently the villa is fully renovated and is now open to the public, tourists
are allowed to visit the site and enter the villa throughout the year. The
Villa Savoye is the implementation of Le Corbusier’s 5 points of new
architecture, so the villa itself can be easily elucidated through his
manifesto. The points are: Elevating the building by lifting it over the “pilotis”,
free designing of the ground plan, the free façade, the horizontal ribbon
window, and the roof garden (Hill 2008). In Le Corbusier’s manifesto,
lifting the building over the pilotis refers to the replacement of
supporting walls with reinforced concrete columns that bear the structural
load, this is the basis of the new modern aesthetic. This is clearly
implemented in the Villa Savoye. These thin “pilotis” are usually found in
stilt and pole dwellings in Asia and Scandinavia. In modern architecture,
pilotis are ground-level supporting columns. Beyond their functional support,
the pilotis raise the architectural volume, lighten it and free a space for
circulation under the building. Le Corbusier also used the pilotis as part of
his design because they refine a building’s connectivity with the land by
allowing for cars to park. A garden or driveway can also be made below the
building, this would ultimately result in a sense of buoyancy and lightness in
the building. In parts of the world where the weather is tumultuous, the pilotis
may be used to raise the occupied area of the structure above storm levels. This
was part of Le Corbusier’s philosophy of a pragmatic and effective machine-like
structure that makes land, people and inhabited spaces work together optimally
and smoothly. The villa Savoye was built using the Domino system, this
refers to the structural system that has a free plan and free façade. This is due
to the fact the columns/pilotis have replaced the loadbearing walls within the
structure (Architectural world). The free plan allows for a space that can be
more flexibly utilized by the inhabitants. The free façade separates the
exterior of the building from its structural function and allows for the exterior
to comprise a long horizontal window which wraps around the building (Hill
2008). This was an unprecedented event which was never seen before in
architecture. The use of ribbon windows allows for the large
presence of natural light within the home. These windows can be seen on all
four sides of the structure and were methodically planned according to the
orientation of the sun. They allow for a fairly equal distribution of light
inside the occupied space. The vast horizontal strip also adds to the aesthetic
value of lightness to the building itself. The structure is a two story
building with six vertical pilotis that bear the structural load of the two reinforced
concrete floors (ibid). As previously mentioned, this allows for the exterior
walls to be wrapped around with a long stretch horizontal ribbon window. Le
Corbusier was able to discard the older constraining methodology of load
bearing walls which has allowed him to implement his philosophies and ideals. The
roof garden can serve domestic purposes and provides protection to the
concrete roof. It is also part of Le Corbusier’s philosophy of giving back to
nature. Before the building was constructed, the grass was removed in the
process of excavation in order to provide a building land and construct the
foundations. Since the grass beneath the building was removed, the grass should
return on the roof in order to give back what was taken from nature.






An illustration of Le Corbusier’s
Domino plan which allowed for a free plan and free façade to exist.








The Robie House

Robie House, (also known as the Frederick C. Robie House) is an American historical
Landmark. It is situated in University of Chicago campus in the Hyde Park
neighbourhood in Illinois, Chicago (Perez 2010). The building was constructed
in 1910 and it was designed by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright
(Gibson 2017). The building is regarded as a great example of the Prairie
School style, which was considered as the first architectural style that is
truly American (ibid). The inspiration for the Robie house was the American
houses that had flat and large plains. The Prairie style homes are
characterized by strong horizontal lines, low pitched roofs, long sets of
windows, and natural materials. One of the most popular characteristics of the
Robie house is use of art glass windows, this windows coalesce the interior and
exterior spaces through the soft filtration of the light. The house has no
clear facade, its windows are unconventional and there is no main entrance or a
front door. It occupies almost the entire plot of land and the little free
space that is left is incorporated in the overall composition of the building
with decorative walls and gardens. Frank Lloyd Wright created a method of
composition that comprises organized symmetric forms in asymmetric groupings
(Wikiarquitecura). The basis for that composition is a long two-story block
with seemingly symmetrical porches and each featuring a sloped roof at each
end. On the first floor of the south facade, there is a row of large doors that
open onto a large balcony which projects outward from the house (ibid). The
balcony provides shade to a series of similar windows on the ground floor.
Wright rejected the view that indoor spaces should be closed and isolated from
each other. He designed the house in such a way that the space in each room or
hall was open to the other, this created a sense of immense light and space
inside the house. To distinguish between one area from another, Wright designed
light divisions or different height ceilings in order to prevent unnecessary
solid wall divisions. The Robie House is unconventional in the sense that it
defies the dominant concept of a house as a box containing a smaller boxes for
rooms. The interior of the Robie house allows for light to enter without
obstructions such as walls and partitions. Unlike Adolf Loos, Frank Lloyd
Wright tried to perfect a seamless transition from exterior to interior (and
vice versa). This is done through the protruding low pitched roofs and bands of
windows which makes the building seem welcoming and receptive.




The three aforementioned buildings which have been
analysed in this paper give a substantial amount of insight into the modern
movement in architecture. Modernist architecture reduces buildings and
structures into their most basic fundamental modular forms. It rejects
ornaments and decorations on the façade (this was heavily argued by Adolf
Loos). In some cases it aims to connect with nature (as seen with the roof
garden principle in the Villa Savoye and the transition from the outside to the
inside in the Robie house). The buildings are plain white with the exception of
the Robie house, these white facades are a common feature in international
style architecture which is a variant of modernism. What the Robie house does
differently is that it is true to the materials and does not cover the masonry
brickwork, this is also a principle in modernism. All those buildings exemplify
the principles of modernism and will continue to be used as vital case studies
of architectural theory and history.







Muller house:

     Galinsky, 2005. Villa Muller, Prague. Villa Mueller
Prague by Adolf Loos.

     Architectuul, 2017. Villa Müller. Villa Müller.

     Besser, J. & Liebscher, S., 2005. ADOLF LOOS THE

     Thesleepofrigour, Posts about Formal on Architecture
Design Primer. Architecture Design Primer.


Villa Savoye:

     Kroll, A., 2010. AD Classics: Villa Savoye / Le
Corbusier. ArchDaily.

     Gibson, E., 2017. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye encapsulates
the Modernist style. Dezeen.

     Hill, A., 2008. Le Corbusier – An analysis of Poissy’s
Villa Savoye, Indiana: Indiana University Bloomington.



Robie House:

     Perez, A., 2010. AD Classics: Frederick C. Robie House
/ Frank Lloyd Wright. ArchDaily.

     Gibson, E., 2017. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House is
one of the most important 20th century buildings. Dezeen.

     Robie House – Data, Photos & Plans. Wikiarquitecura.
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