Comparing the Venturi house vs. the Villa Mairea relationship to Orthodox Modernism, both Aalto and Venturi rejected the perceived sterility of Orthodox Modern buildings. This rejection led to the development of Post-Modernism in architecture. Both of these architects believed that Orthodox Modernist ultimately produced designs consisting of glass or white boxes and a desensitization for the human scale and form. The idea of Modernism, that form follows function, is defied by Venturi. He asserts that the form should be separate from both the function and the structural facts. He felt that decorative and symbolic forms should both play a part in the structural core of a building.
Venturi built a home for his mother Vanna Venturi in 1963. The Venturi home is located in Chestnut Hill, PA. Venturi based the plan on a symbolic conception instead of on spatial abstraction, which he considered to be an aspect of Orthodox Modernism 1. This design for his mother had a sloped roof, with the chimney becoming the center of the house. It rises up out of the roof and seems to split the house in two. It has a deliberate deadpan character.
But this apparent blandness, hides the many internal complexities and contradictions of the home. This is a house that uses big and small, inside and out to counterbalance the complexity 2. Complexity in combination with big scale in a small buildings achieves an appropriate architectural tension. The plan is symmetrical, but the symmetry is distorted at times.
An example of this would be the chimney and the stairs. These two vertical elements compete, for the central position. In contrast, the outside form is simple and consistent. The front creates an almost symbolic image of a house. However, it also reflects the inside complexities through the varying locations and sizes and shapes of the windows and the off-center location of the chimney. Venturis aim in designing this home was more about the joining of complexity and contradiction instead of the less is more attitude.
Venturi tried to create a visual tension by creating both form and meaning in his designs 3. He felt that his approach to design was more in tune with the complexity of the modern experience or the sterile types of environments that the Modernist architects were creating. Venturi was more concerned with the issues of form and their meaning rather than the sociology of architecture. Venturi believed that the planning for urban America had ruined the vitality of the street life, by over simplifying it.
He felt like even in nature there was complexity and contradiction and that design should reflect this. The Venturi home is simple in image, complex in plan and rich in its contrast to the functional architecture of the time. Venturi had a both-and attitude rather than a either-or attitude. He strived to be innovating, inconsistent and ambiguous rather than direct, clear and articulated. Venturis style was not just a reaction to orthodox Modernism and its banality, as he saw it. He identifies the desire for a complex architecture as being common in many aspects of life and prominent in the work of more contemporary architects such as Le Corbusier and Aalto 4.
Alvar Aalto also believed that a building should exists for its own structural sake. He too set out to purge designers from the severe restrictions of Modern architects. Aaltos aim in designing his homes was to counteract the human attitude of much of the Modern architects. He felt that a building couldnt be emotionally satisfying unless it responded organically to human needs. The Villa Mairea, built in 1938-41, located in Noor markku, Finland is a prime example of Aaltos beliefs. This home has a L-shape plan.
Aalto designed many of his homes this way because he felt this created a semi-private section and a more public section. Its primary spaces, the dining and living rooms, border a sheltered garden court, set within a roughly circular forest clearing. The use of complexity can be seen in the irregular rhythm of the timber screens mimicking the irregular spacing of the trees in the forest. This is also seen in the in the railing of the interior stairway. Even the structure itself is used symbolically to refer to origins; as in the Venturi home. The Villa Mairea is archaic and modern, rustic and elegant, regional and universal at the same time.
It refers simultaneously to the past and the future, it is abundant in its imagery and consequently has a very human aspect. Aaltos style was contextual and vernacular. He was very conscious of the need for social settings linked directly to natural surroundings with the use of natural landscape. Aaltos design, like Venturis, had some contradictions and complexities. Aalto used steel tubular columns, wooden post, and tree trunk as just a few examples 5. All of these different elements were brought together, joining the artificial with the natural.
The opposition between artificial and natural form, and this principle of duality maintains itself throughout the home. Both Venturi and Aalto break away from the restrictive design of the Modern architecture. They each developed a new and unique method of bringing the focus of the home back to those who would inhabit them.
1. web Buildings. com / building /VannaVenturiHouse. Html 2. Ly tard, Jean-Francois, The PostModern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1984), p.
137 3. William J.R. Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900 Third Edition, (Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1982, 1987, 1996), p.
346 4. web 5. William J.R. Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900 Third Edition, (Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1982, 1987, 1996), p.