Research Paper: Function in Architecture

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Function in Architecture

The Arts and Crafts movements had a great influence on 20th century infrastructure. Architects thought of structural design as a form of art and expression -- a form of expression that also inspired functionality in a building. Two successful architects that adopted such principals were Frank Lloyd Wright and Peter Behrens. There was a certain spiritual connection between environment and home that both architects attempted to achieve; this connection could be achieved through both natural and manmade means. The Craftsman style of architecture came straight out of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Frank Wright's Prairie homes were another product of this movement, designed to blend in with the prairie landscape. Like Wright, Behrens's work inspired emotion.

The Robie House and the Coonley represented Frank Lloyd Wright's belief that the house had to connect to the nature surrounding it (McCarter 2010). The Robie House goes against everything that one would believe a house "should" look like. There is no street facade or any kind of recognizable door for which a person can walk through with confidence that one is, indeed, walking through a front door. This poses a certain challenge for the building, as Conway & Roenisch (2005) state that a doorway, the means to gain access to a building, and thus the door's meaning is intrinsic to the overall building. In typical structures, the house's front door could be seen from the street -- it would be the home's best side, the door planted firmly in the center as a welcoming element. Wright's hidden door was definitely something that nobody had seen before in a home. The idea that the entrance into someone's house should be a journey is something that Wright firmly believed in.

Wright's early twentieth century prairie homes' dominant elements were the hearths and the chimneys, placed in the center of the house and symbolizing the heart of the home (2005). The Robie House has the dramatic roof that, for Wright and other architects, symbolizes shelter. The Robie House's roof is "a cantilevered roof that extends twenty feet beyond the last masonry support and provokes the troubling thought that no wooden roof could possibly extend that far for long" (Connors 1984). As well as the low-pitched, extended roof, the Robie House has other elements of Wright's Prairie style homes such as the overhanging eaves, the horizontal lines, and open floor plan. The space in Wright's home is not defined by walls, which makes one think of the openness and vastness of the prairie.

The Robie House lacks the normal solid walls that make up a house (Connors 1984) and the building itself looks as if it has been put together using giant blocks, floating roofs, and garlands of windows that go on forever. The house itself, when viewed in context of the neighborhood, looks anachronistic. While the homes in the neighborhood appear more stately in structure and feel, the Robie House feels much more sterile and bleak. The house is surrounded with low walls, serving as a protective fortress from the city and built-in planter boxes give the home a feeling of the prairie.

Wright saw the lack of functionality in the western style structures and decided that he would start an Americanized trend that could work well with the American style of living (McCarter 2010). Prairie homes lacked an attic and a basement, as Wright believed that they only served as storage places for stuff that should have long been thrown away. Wright moved away from the traditional and stepped into an area that appealed to society in general. He considered the house to be a creation of the human mind based on experience. Wright was recognized as one of the best architects of his time. (2010). The homes were simplistic and harmonious at the same time. He used building materials that were natural and he kept them looking that way -- that is, wood always looked like wood and brick always looked like brick, etc. He kept the natural colors and never hid their natural beauty with paint. The strong horizontal lines of his creations kept the long lines of the prairie and he used glass windows to wrap around the house.

Wright's work was functional and organic and form and function always went hand-in-hand. While the Robie House may appear to be in juxtaposition with the surrounding landscape, the house is visually quite stunning. The fact that the house seems to be so shut off from the world outside speaks about Wright's belief that the home should be a place of security and comfort. The entrance, as mentioned, so secluded form the street, offers privacy and a feeling of safety for its residents.

Wright's Robie House offers public spaces outside the home as well as private spaces. The house keeps its distance from the street by using several horizontal planes. The planes appear to overlap one another, giving the appearance of maze. This also is another way that Wright was able to exude a feeling of privacy and security.

The rooms of the Robie House are bright and open and are encased in "light screen" windows with both clear and colored glass, oftentimes there are representations of nature on the windows. The windows offer a great amount of light and are able to evoke a very peaceful feeling while still offering privacy. The light warms the room in yellow tones that give more of a feeling of being out on the prairie.

The Coonley House is comprised of four functional units and it was the first house that Wright actually used a zone plan. It was also a one-story home that gave the feeling of the extended prairie; in the Coonley House, the basement was completely above the ground. Each separate unit has its own function and they are brought together with the use of light and openness in space. The four units are the living room, the dining room, the family sleeping rooms, and a playroom. There are separate wings that were used for the servant's quarters and the kitchen.

The Coonley House is similar in appearance to the Robie House in that it uses the same natural materials to give the sense of nature and the prairie; however, there is more warmth in the appearance of the Coonley House as there are not so many different planes to give the feeling of being inside of a fortress. There are sunken gardens that evoke the feeling of nature as well as a gardener's cottage and a garage and stable for horses. The house is situated on the Des Plaines river, the perfect location for Wright to build his prairie-inspired home. Like the inside of the Robie House, Wright designed all of the furnishings for the house, including the curtains.

Peter Behrens was another pioneer in the innovation of functionalist architecture. His works included the Turbine Factory of Berlin and the German Embassy at St. Petersburg (Whyte 2008). The Turbine Factory in Berlin used glass and iron to create a dynamic construction that borrows themes from industrialism. The building itself is austere in appearance and looks a lot like a steel shed. The building is a prime example of utilitarianism in architecture. Because the building is set on a corner, one can look at both the front and side elevations simultaneously. While the building is utilitarian in style, it is also classical at the same time. It symbolizes both industrialism and classicism -- that is to say that in the Turbine Factory we have an industrial building that is built in a classical tradition and this is what gives the building such a monumental feeling. The steel and concrete used together in a classical way create a building quite unlike any other. One of the biggest problems in architecture during this time was the ability to stay creative while also taking into account the industrial era. Behrens showed that both functionalism and creative design could go together.

Behrens designed structures that were both functional and productive. Behrens started the trend of concern for employees and social responsibility from industrialization of those days (Whyte 2008). The design of every day elements were often going unnoticed by people, and Behrens was able to bring the fact that society was changing to the forefront of people's minds. He used functional and industrial elements and materials to exhibit the changing world.

Behrens was recognized for the innovation in industrial architecture and a role model for many architects that followed in his footsteps (H. Arnason, E.C. Mansfield, 2010). He was not only known for his buildings, however; Behrens also designed household electrical appliances. He made parts interchangeable and this was a major rationalization when it came to production of these parts. Behrens was constantly thinking about ways to make lives better by making everyday things more utilitarian. His designs were inventive, modern, and industrial in nature. Many designers and architects were inspired by Behrens' inventive mind and his functional directness.

Behrens' Turbine Factory as well as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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