Construction Technology's Place in Architecture
A major question in modern architecture is how construction technology plays into architectural form. Does construction technology validate a building as modern architecture? Can modern architecture exist without construction technology? My answer to both questions is no. This paper will analyze modern architecture and the role technology plays in creating it. Examining the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe will help support my claim.
Architecture exists as a fingerprint of the society from which it grows. It is a physical, spatial, experiential interpretation of realities we've created around us. Technology is what our present world revolves around so of course it plays a prime role in modern architecture. But the presence of construction technology does not render as architecture until the form it creates has evolved past a mere physical entity into an experiential existence. I have chosen the Farnsworth House because it is one of the purest forms of modern architecture I know today. The energy behind Mies van der Rohe's work is free from restraints of a specific order, lead only by structural clarity and simplicity. One of his most famous statements, 'less is more', is backed up in full by the Farnsworth house.
The House consists of parallel floor and ceiling planes measuring 29x77 feet, sandwiching a steel skeleton enclosed by a continuous glass-plane skin. This is levitated five feet above ground by eight face-mounted H-section columns extending to the roof edge. A smaller terrace plane is placed asymmetrically to the side. This levitates between the house floor and the ground via six H-section column stubs, two of which are shared with the house. The exterior floor planes are made of gravel filled steel drain pans topped by open-jointed paving. Interior floor and roof are steel framed. Welds are ground smooth and then painted white. Other than a free individually symmetrical structure placed just off-center, the interior plan is open letting light travel completely through the structure.
A perfect balance of symmetry and asymmetry is created through these pieces. Ornamentation does not exist, as his goal is to emphasize architectonic qualities without the 'fluff' - no distractions. Every element of the structure is constructed to craftsman quality. Everything from the manufactured beams to the method of connecting the pieces is absolutely modern. The application of these simple modern construction methods allowed this architectural creation to exist. This is where construction technology evolved into architecture. The levitation, continuous planes of glass, and minimalist organization of the interior all contribute to a sense of weightlessness and connection to the surrounding nature. Each line and plane is created specifically for this piece of architecture. Having absolutely no formal relation to previously composed architectural orders and with its key focus toward spatial definition, abstraction, and proportions, the Farnsworth house is emphatically modern.
The Farnsworth house demonstrates the harmonization of form, function, and construction into a successful architectural existence. I often see buildings today whose design is blinded by practicality. Even while they incorporate very similar construction technology, there design goes no further than filling a need for particular space, leaving the point of architecture off of the pallet. Construction technology lets us build pretty much whatever we want; kind of like a synthesizer lets a musician create sounds that where never possible before. With that next level of construction in our reach we've been able to reach the next level of the architectural experience and expression.