Post-752 -by Gautam Shah
The three masters, Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe of the Modern Age, each had a different approach to Architecture of Window Design. In earlier age Andrea Palladio also designed a classical form of opening system. A comparative evaluation of modern day masters treatment of opening-system is discussed here.
An earlier post on LE CORBUSIER and ILLUMINATION, published here > https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/le-corbusier-and-illumination/
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT:
FLW by 1893 was an independent architect, and began to design buildings with strong inclination to Queen Anne style. But soon enough he began to break away from the Victorian inspiration to a rational style. He devised own Prairie style houses.
The rectilinear window design was to set a varied direction for the next 25 years. Wright had once said ‘beautiful buildings I could build, if only it were unnecessary to cut holes in them.’ This was exemplified in the Prairie house windows. Windows were no longer punctures in the wall or an element of the wall, but rather began to be entities on their own.
He created a visual interest under the darkened space below the deep overhangs. There was little reflective gloss over the exterior glass surface, as covered by the shadows of elongated eaves. He also began to open up the interior spaces with clear glass doors and windows as in Prairie houses.
Wright began to negotiate corners with windows to break the box like Victorian architecture of the age. The interiors became one end-less flow of interconnected spaces.
He never accepted the then current –‘poetry-crushing a guillotine’ double hand sash window, but used the long casement shutters, stretching as a single panel, uninterrupted by any mid bars, from lintel to sill level.
According to Wright the ‘long casement shutters ‘brought the outside in more effectively than the double-hung sash’. He preferred long line of casement shutters as a single panel like a glazed wall. The open expanse of the casement shutters, its glass and the light from the back face, also, became the medium for illuminating the stained glass patterns.
After a European tour that exposed him to the Modernist Movements of the time, Wright depended on straight parallel lines and repeated use of small squares as pattern.
Wright’s glass designs in an earlier phase were influenced by William Morris and Louis H. Sullivan. He, instead of the opalescent picturesque effect offered by commercial glass designers like Tiffany and John La Farge, relied more on clear glass, abstract geometric patterns and discreet colouring to create what he called ‘light screens’, evoking the Japanese Shoji screens.
In the later part of 1920’s, Wright also began to use wood muntins along with colourless frosting as tools for patterning. With the Usonian house in the 1940’s, the window patterns were created by perforating plywood panels and sandwiching the plate of glass between them.
The extensive glass surfaces of the stretched casement windows were always occupied by straight lines patterns, through restrained and transparent stained-glass colouring, reminiscent of Japanese Shoji screens. In the later phase he began to use wood mid-members and opalescent frosting for pattern making.
Glass is recognized as having two distinctly different faces. Iridescent on the outside face due to reflections, and a ‘water-white’ flawlessly clear and non glossy-surface on the interior face.
This tradition of experimentation with windows and other forms of openings continued till the Johnson Wax building. Not only the windows and openings, along with the sources of natural illumination were restated. Same innovations were continued in formatting the interior spaces. In Johnson wax building, Wright wanted to create an internal building, without any worthwhile exterior view. The glass tubes in Johnson building negotiated curves, which would not have been possible through flat glass panes. It was a highly unique glazing approach, though not efficient in actual working. The glass tubes in replaced the stiff flat glass panels, but turned frosted or translucent. The natural sources of illumination in the interior space were more attuned with the form of architectural elements.
Wright migrated to Arizona each winter for health reasons, to escape the harsh Wisconsin winters. In 1937 Wright began to establish a place in the desert that integrated the terrain, climate and the users. He continuously improvised the entity. Wright used translucent canvas to act as a roof (later replaced by plastic because of the intense wear from the Arizona sun). In the south side rooms the walls did not reach the roof, but stopped at a lower level, though covered by long overhang as the sun-shade and light reflector.
FLW used the deep shadows to eliminate the exterior iridescence and added colour staining and patterning to break the transparency. Corbusier used the opaque iridescence of the exterior surface to juxtapose the exterior masonry or cement surfaces. Mies, on the other hand, used the exterior mirror like gloss to reflect the changes occurring in the surroundings concurrently juxtaposing the interiors. This helped to reduce the massiveness of the built-form.