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Exploring The Idea Of Minimalism In Villa Tugendhat And Azuma House

Living spaces within an architectural concept revealed itself distinctly during the twentieth century. It was during this time when Mies van der Rohe and Tadao Ando explored new architectural and spatial thoughts that were not only supposedly conceptualized but also used in practice during current times by modern architects. Known for his minimalistic and stable designs, Mies van der Rohe’s project Vilaa Tugendhat transferred the concept of the open plan living he had used for the Barcelona Pavilion to a residential context that represented the life of wealthy newlyweds Grete and Fritz Tugendhat. Built within the residential district of Brno’s aspiring middle class, the Tugendhat House was known to by a highly advanced space filled with lavish materials. Throughout its development, Mies focused on the close relation between architecture and natural surroundings by using techniques such as floor to ceiling glazing that connected the interior and exterior facades.

Also known as a Row House, the Azuma House was one of the first works of the self-taught architect Tadao Ando. His presentation of a cement box in the middle of a dilapidated wooden house in which there are masses in the central areas of Osaka, Japan creates a highly self-sufficient living space within that box. Like Mies van der Rohe, Ando designed this space to guarantee individual privacy which the traditional row houses did not substantially provide. Through careful choice of material, Ando attempted to return the contact with light, air, rain and other natural elements that tied in with the Japanese lifestyle. Spatial Strategy Figure A. digital image, Floorplan Villa Tugendhat, accessed 12th September 2018 Figure B, digital image, Main living space, accessed 12th September 2018Designed on a steep sloping site, Villa Tugendhat was designed to create a sense of privacy when positioned in the living area of the space. This was due to the reasoning that Mies designed the large amounts of glass to face the garden rather than the public street resulting in the entrance elevation offering no views into the house from a public street point of view. Throughout the development of the spatial interior, Mies deployed his functionalist concept of iron framework that allowed the interior of the house to move away from load-bearing interior walls, which is the Figure A ground floor plan where there is less walls separating the spaces. Thus, this resulted in more open spaces the connected rooms together and light spaces that allowed heating, cooling and humidification to occur all at once.

As Villa Tugendhat was developed in the early stages of World War II, where technologies was still in the beginning stages of being advanced, the steel frame construction was seen to infrequent for homes in Brno, Czechia. However by using the steel frames for construction support, many advantages were bought in such as an open plan living floor plan that different between level to level. By using large walls of glazing which is seen in Figure B, the living room was able to open up and be connected to spacces as the garden and dining room, resulting in the atmosphere within the zones to be dominated by a fundamental sense of open space which extends out into the landscape as by the colors of the precious materials chosen to fit the living room and rest of the house. In fact Mies “that a house should not be built from the facade, but from the inside and that windows in a modern building should no longer be holes in a wall but fill the space between floor and ceiling, therefore becoming element of the structure”. By doing so, Mies wanted to create a spacious modern house that connected the living space with dining and the outside giving a sense of openness and light within the living room.

Unlike Villa Tugendhat that designed purposely for a couple, Ando designed the Azuma House to force visitors within the space to face the natural elements as part of their movement throughout the space. As seen in Figure C, the courtyard which is also seen to be a living intersects the movement throughout the space enabling the individual to connect with their environment that is inspired by the traditional connection of Japanese culture. With the courtyard not only as acting as a bridge for humans and nature, it also enables for the illusion of space within the confined proximity of the long, narrow house. Within the area, the main natural elements were collectively meant to diminish into the background so through the inconspicuous elements a sense of opening or emptiness emerges. As a result, this injection of the movement throughout the house pushes the individuals to connect with the environment and the Japanese culture. “The courtyard is a nucleus of light that unfolds within the house and is a device to introduce natural phenomena such as light, wind and rain that are being forgotten in the city”. Thus, the courtyard was seen to be the space within an omnipresent void that may be rendered perceivable resulting into an establishment through the changes of climate and light where the ethos within the space itself changes. Subsequently, this idea related to the idea of ‘yugen’ in Japanese poetry which portrays nature as a ineffable presence sensed through subtle weather patterns, for example, a slight drizzle or an unexpected breeze. As a result, Figure D shows capitulates that Ando seeks to instill the presence of nature within architecture which attempt to draw nature into an intimate association where forms of spiritual exercise are traditionally carried out within the context of the human interrelationship with nature.

At its time, the Tugendhat House was known to be exceptionally expensive for its time considering Mie’s use of immoderate materials, nonstandard construction methods and advanced new technologies for heating and cooling. Within the house, Mies designed the spatial interior as a free flowing space with steel structure and chrome streathing order from Germany and white linoleum sprawled across the floor create a uniformed surface with most neutral color. As seen in Figure E, Mies’ addition of the Tugendhat chairs covered in silver grey rowdier fabric and the Barcelona chairs covered in emerald green leather were examples of the extravagant materials he employed in order to represent the wealth of the house’s occupants. The lavish choice of materials represented the Tugendhat’s vision a spacious modern house that restored a spiritual sense of life beyond the necessities. “While providing seclusion and privacy there was a feeling of belonging to the larger totality at the same time”, as a seen in Figure F, the addition of silk curtains and drapery allowed for users to create their own private spaces when wanted. “Apart from the perfect architecture, the villa has exceptional service and technical amenities: especially the timeless system of large sash windows in the living space driven by the electric motor and a unique air-condition system which treated the air in the living space”. Not only did the Venetian blinds, curtains and drapery enable a sense of privacy but alongside the large amount of glass, Mies was able to control heating, cooling and humidification to occur at the same which minimised the unwanted solar grains in the summer period.

“While Tadao Ando uses raw concrete walls, floors and ceilings, his fundamental desire is that they should be invisible in order to let the space express itself. To achieve this, his finished concrete has a glossy, smooth texture that creates an effect of massiveness in the unconscious of the inhabitants, while also offering a sense of considerable depth in the space inside his buildings” (Nussaume, 2014, p. 108). In contrast to the Villa Tugendhat, the entire Azuma House was constructed from raw concrete, with a closed facade on the street side with three identically sized spaces formed around a central courtyard, Tadao wanted to specifically change the perception of people in the 1970s which connected with the context of Japan that circulates around the idea of simple design. For example, the idea of chaos is compared to simplicity which enables a sense of calmness. Figure G, presents the creation of the stone paved platform that was designed to not be seen to stand out on their own or not have much of a presence within the space, however, the slate step or platform at the front is seen to be an introduction to the floor, as a result, establishing that the choice of material is considered to be modest which is a reflection of Japanese culture.

Ando’s lack of ornamentation seen in Figure H, tesitifies that his intentions of stopping architectural elements from being covered with external representation attributes as he explores architecture as “bare, reduced to very few essentials and apparently made of almost nothing”, creating a simplistic design with high levels of meaning. By having bare living that is made of almost nothing, Ando focused on the “most symbolic points in the house (the entrance, the bedroom) he has provided skylights which hark back to the old tsukiage mado and emphasixe the change in light from day to night by letting it in filtered form, to the living space” (Magnago, 1970, p. 4) which encapsulates the theme of light and shadow that softens the atmosphere created by the use of raw concrete.

Both Villa Tugendhat and Azuma House were known to be minimalistic designs but both explored the idea of minimalism in different techniques. Mies van der Rohe shifted the notion of an open plan living alongside the use of expensive materials to represent the wealth of newlyweds Grete and Fritz Tugendhat. Throughout its development, Mies focused on the close relation between architecture and natural surroundings by using techniques such as floor to ceiling glazing that connected the interior and exterior facades. This house was designed to be spacious area for the Tugendhat couple but also to fulfill the goal of creating a visual continuum between exterior and interior space. Tadao Ando’s Azuma House allowed for the exploration of ideas that attempted to both question the modern world and make a place for tradition using the modern language. This development was not only inspired by the childhood experience of Ando but also by the context of the time and what he perceived to be as movement in Japan that closely involved the Japanese tradition. Through, it is deemed to be an impractical living space, the house combined simple spatial and material strategies that enhanced by the effects of abstracted nature and the forced movement of people through the courtyard that is seen to bring life in living space that cold and disconnected space. Thus, “morphological representations meant that architectural space is formed not only by fixed structural masses, spatial fencing structures but also by dynamic processes of human activity, that developing in them and between them, this idea is both explored between Mies and Ando as both challenge the typical architectural ideas within their contexts through minimalist and stable designs. Mies himself explores the open plan living that moves away from load-bearing walls and uses high-end materials and technologies, whereas, Ando studies the idea of privacy with simple materials in micro and narrow spaces.

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