From the Inside Out: the enclosed becomes the enclosure Essay

Submitted By dshah612
Words: 1302
Pages: 6

From the Inside Out: the enclosed becomes the enclosure In the mid-19th century, German architect Gottfried Semper outlined four technical arts as the elements of architecture in his most famous work, Der Stil (Style, 1860). Textile, Ceramics, Carpentry, and Metalwork, according to Semper, were the groundwork of architecture. “Style Theory,” as Semper referred to it, “sees beauty as a unity, as a product or a result, not a sum or a series.1” Situating the weaving and braiding of textile craft at the base of his dissection of architecture and form, Semper investigated the relation between the building shell (the enclosure) and building’s content (the enclosed). Semper’s distinction of the enclosure and the enclosed inspired a new approach to architecture, designing from the inside out. Fast forwarding a few decades, modern architect Gerrit Rietveld and industrial designer Joe Colombo drew from Semper’s style theory, investigating new definitions of the enclosure and the enclosed. Rietveld’s Schroder House (1924), was designed with minimal walls to create a connection between the interior and the exterior (Figure 1). Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit (1972) encompassed all essential living spaces in a single unit (Figure 2). In both cases, the architects proposed that the furniture, traditionally considered parts of the enclosed, became the enclosure. This abstraction would refocus the enclosed as the inhabitants of the space, human beings. Redefinitions of the enclosure and the enclosed allowed Rietveld and Colombo to draw from Semper’s theories, addressing questions of efficiency, ergonomics, craft, and scale. At the core of Semper’s distinction between the enclosure and the enclosed, “Everything enclosed presents itself as unified, as a collective; whereas everything bound reveals itself as articulated, as a plurality.2” In the Schroder house, Rietveld employed furniture to define spaces within a larger “wall-less” space. With the inhabitants being the unified enclosed, it became necessary for the furniture to be the articulated enclosure. In his design of the furniture of the space, Rietveld took this to mean that the furniture should be honest in its form, reacting to the inhabitant. It should be articulated in a way to very clearly suggest its intended purpose.
In his description of the textile enclosure, specifically drapery, Semper suggests that it should “fit the organism snugly, highlight its properties, and veil and correct the flaws and irresolutions of its form.3” Rietveld’s infamous Red and Blue Chair (figure 3), a key feature of the Schroder house, translated Semper’s principle almost perfectly. He designed the chair to keep the sitter physically and mentally active. Rietveld was often quoted saying, “We must remember that ‘sit’ is a verb, too.4” As depicted in the image of Rietveld sitting in an earlier version of the chair, the chair clearly delineates a specific posture for the user (figure 4). With no padding on the chair, the entire seat is angled to prevent users from sliding out and provide support to the head and neck5. Much like the folds of a drape in relation to the furnishings of a space, of particular importance to Semper, Rietveld paid special attention to the ergonomics of his furnishings.
Colombo developed Semper’s distinction between the enclosed and the enclosure slightly differently. For Colombo, the Total Furnishing Unit, aimed to “more closely approximate the actual life style of today and tomorrow,6” but is also “closer to man’s true requirements and less restricting and representative of taste, prestige, and so forth.” Rather than investigating the way the enclosure could reflect the enclosed, he was interested in how the enclosed, human beings, could shape the enclosure. Aligning more with Semper’s idea that the “enclosed should present itself unmistakably as the principle theme and be placed upon a suitably chosen background7,” the Total Furnishing Unity,…