WHAT IS A HOUSE FOR住宅所为何

Jan Kinsbergen: What’s fascinating about Mies is that even though he seemed to be a kind of down to earth person, his ideas were revolutionary.

I rediscovered and became more interested in the 50 x 50 feet house at a vast MoMa exhibition in New York during the 90’s. It was followed shortly after by the publication of two significant, large books: Mies in Berlin and Mies in America containing plenty of unpublished research resources.

At the exhibition there was a large model of the 50 x 50 house. Mies’ idea was to create a house, a prototype with a single space, a continuous environment undivided by full height walls. At that time, it was apparently so new and different, that it eventually never got built. Probably people expected to have a living room, bedrooms, private and public rooms. Mies instead believed that living in one space was a good way to be a family, what a beautiful idea! With this spatial configuration it would be possible to have a very social conception of life. Suddenly, a family shares everything and could live in one space without doors or locks. It’s members just need to behave accordingly, so that the minimum of intimacy is respected.

IS THERE ANY SIMILARITY BETWEEN 50X50 AND YOUR FAMILY HOUSE?

Our family is from a small town, a classical bourgeoisie environment, quite opposite to what 50x50 represents.

During Easter when everyone was away, the streets were completely deserted, and all the houses were empty. All the stores were closed and the shutters down. When you passed in front of a house, you didn’t see anybody, you couldn’t look inside. I remember I didn’t like this atmosphere at all.

Living together both as a family and in society ideally means not locking yourself up. A good concept of life is based on mutual respect. This is much subtler in preventing unpleasant and unexpected events than building walls around you. I am drawn to free, lively urban conditions where you see people and their daily activities, you can be part of it or leave in all directions. 

WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?

I am quite skeptical about the idea of privacy and really enjoy people who have no problems with it. I don’t care if somebody knows where I use my iPhone, how much money I have in my bank account and which company deals with my insurances. I don’t share the paranoia of being persecuted by some type of authorities that would exploit my private data and use it against me. This obsession brings people to build large fences around their properties, dividing and closing up space rather than unifying, maybe even sharing it.

Today we speak about a house - a little spark of open, shared space that could be used neutrally with a silent agreement of where the boundaries between the private spheres are. I like the publicness that 50x50 house proposes. It is radically opposite to a closed, divided space. It’s essentially modern.

A HOUSE GLAZED IN EVERY DIRECTION NEEDS A CERTAIN MARGIN OF LAND OR GARDEN. YOU CANNOT BUILD AN ARTICULATED PUBLIC SPACE WITH THIS KIND OF HOUSE.

I don’t think Mies wanted to make a statement about the urban potential a house like this would have.

It was developed in America for the suburban condition, where one could imagine, there was maybe enough land. As you say, you probably need to have a surrounding garden for this house. However, I would say that Mies’ idea was rather a structural and sociological experiment in its purest sense, without a direct link to regional planning.

Mies searched for principles, ideas and tried to express them in the most direct and radical way. This gave them a potential to live their own life and to reappear somewhere else in another form, which I find fascinating. It’s the underlying principles that remain interesting more than the individual formal aspects of each project. Houses stemming from the same conceptual root don’t have to end up being the same; a non-oriented roof typology, with the columns on the axis, and glass all around. For instance, the house of Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Casa Butanta is a built example of parts of the Miesian 50x50 idea in a somewhat articulated context, in another material, with another grade of opening, but it’s one space, and even though it has many bedrooms, they are open, the walls don’t go up to the roof. When you are inside, it feels like a museum space, very elegant.

AS YOU SAID, AT THE TIME, IT WAS SO RADICAL THAT IT WAS NEVER BUILT. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MAIN CONCERN PEOPLE HAVE WITH THESE KINDS OF SPACES?

I think it’s both convention and convenience. Someone needs to be interested in doing something else other than the standard and most people aren’t. I can also understand it. I mean, it’s probably not feasible for all families to share everything. I just think it could work in some cases, and this would be great!

America in the 50s seemed quite interesting, a highly diverse intellectual culture was apparently developing. The society was on the brink of becoming modern, Eisenhowers social reform happening and later, Kennedy being ready to go to the moon.

I can imagine that the intellectual reception of Miesian proposals was at that time more fertile and open than today. 

Anyway, regardless of epoch and people’s preferences, I really enjoy, be it a functional, structural, or spatial proposal, when it goes far. When I see that not everything could be built, because for instance the engineer said it was not possible or the user said no, it gives a feeling that I have tried to go to the limit, to push the envelope as far as possible. The fact that the experiment ended earlier than conceived tells me that the ambition was wide enough, and that is a good sign, at least for me.

WHEN WE SEE THIS HOUSE, IT’S A COMBINATION OF TRANSPARENCY AND MONUMENTALITY. IT EXPRESSES THE MIESIAN IDEA THAT A HOUSE IS MORE A TEMPLE THAN A DWELLING. WHAT IS THIS HOUSE A TEMPLE OF?

Well, one of the most important strategies that I work with in my practice is coming from Mies and I think it has a lot to do with the aspect you mentioned. He says that if you solve the program and the room arrangement first, everything gets blocked, and a clear construction is impossible. In our office, in the very beginning, we look for a clear construction, meaning - the logic arrangement of structural elements in space, regardless of the spatial functionality. And only later we see how we can fit the functions within. I think, this brings in the topic of monumentality. Temples embody a limited amount of pragmatic functionality. They are basically pure construction. It’s all about creating a space which is so clear and driven by principles that you have the impression that God himself actually did it. You can find a good examples if you look for instance at Greek temples and the amount of structure they have in proportion to their literal functional space.

It is an important aspect in our daily architectural practice. If we build in order to make an argument for a flexible space arrangement with very few resources and very few elements, the construction becomes significant. This strategy is not about space arrangement, it’s about structural thinking that needs to be conceived in a precise way. Applied to a house it changes the character of a dwelling into something more abstract. If the construction has the primacy - it gains a monumental or let’s say a temple like character. I think this is what Mies meant.

CAN ARCHITECTURE HOLD THE RISK OF BEING DIFFICULT TO USE? WHAT ARGUMENT WOULD YOU DRAW ON IF YOU WERE CONFRONTED WITH THIS KIND OF CRITICISM?

One argument could be to say that every obstacle tells you more than everything just going smoothly and falling in place. An obstacle in use informs you about life conditions and how to deal with them. 

Not all churches for instance are very comfortable. The benches are maybe hard, you cannot really hang out for too long. They’re often not heated. It is sometimes a humid space. It’s mostly cold or it is too dark. Some things limit us in our activities for another purpose. A building can broaden the consciousness about our existence, it is not only and not most importantly a comfortable environment. It’s always a question of how far you want to go.

This is true for many human activities. Do I buy a sofa, which is a kind of a fluffy landscape, comfortable in all arrangements? Or do I buy one, where I must sit straight and can have a conversation? If I wear a stiff ironed shirt with a tie, I cannot play basketball so well. What if I always want to be able to do sport? I have to wear jogging pants and sneakers all the time.

One could claim that buildings should always fulfil every demand. But they don’t, and anyway if they try to, they don’t talk about anything. And this is a significant disadvantage. Every good work has certain valuable aspects, strengths, but it also has weaknesses. If a work covers all topics, it will never have a remarkable presence. There are always conflicts. It’s difficult to be uniform and democratic on a high level, it’s almost impossible.

One can look at Mies’ National Gallery in Berlin, and criticize it, because the exhibition space downstairs is not really inspiring, and the upper entrance hall is not very usable because of the glare of the sun maybe and so on, plus the whole building was difficult to execute. But still, all this doesn’t really matter because what is interesting is how it is constructed, conceived, how the building process was invented, how the roof was lifted and what it stands for. Merging architecture with the contemporary technical possibilities and limits. In the end it’s not a good building because of this or that sum of functional conveniences.  To criticize something that undeniably has outstanding qualities, is like criticising a very talented architect, writer, or anything because he or she cannot play ping pong.

If Mies was building today, he would still be a great architect and he would solve all the technical problems in an ingenious way. I’m sure about that. Yet, he was not happy facing certain issues and providing a pure service. I profoundly appreciate this kind of radical research because it brings new aspects to life. It is not targeted at answering all the questions and it cannot be used to produce generic solutions for all kinds of conditions. The experiments will always remain special cases. However, it doesn’t diminish their value, after all.

21.07.21

扬-金斯伯根: 密斯的迷人之处在于,尽管他似乎是一个脚踏实地的人,但他的想法是革命性的。
90年代,我在纽约MOMA的一个大型展览上重新发现了50 x 50英尺的住宅,并对其产生了兴趣。不久之后,两本重要的巨著出版了:《密斯在柏林》和《密斯在美国》,其中包含了大量未发表的研究素材。
在展览中,有一个50 x 50住宅的大模型。密斯的想法是创造一个住宅,一个具有单一空间的原型,一个没有被通高墙体分割的连续环境。在当时,这显然是非常新颖且与众不同的,以至于它最终没有被建造。人们大概还是期望有客厅、卧室、私人和公共的房间。密斯却认为,在同一个空间中生活是一种很好的家庭模式,这是一个多么美好的想法啊! 在这种空间配置下,人可能拥有一种很社会化的生活概念。突然间,一个家庭共享一切,居住在一个没有门和锁的空间里。家庭成员只需要做出相应的行为,使最低限度的亲密关系得到尊重。

50 x 50住宅和你们家的住宅之间有什么相似之处吗? 

我们家庭来自一个小镇,一个典型的中产阶级环境,与50x50所代表的完全相反。

复活节期间,大家都走了,街上完全没有人,所有的住宅都是空的。所有的商店都关闭了,百叶窗也放了下来。从一栋住宅前经过,你看不到任何人,也看不到室内。我记得我一点也不喜欢这种气氛。
居住在一起,无论是作为一个家庭还是社会成员,理想情况下意味着不要把自己关起来。好的生活理念是基于相互尊重。从避免不愉快和意外情况的角度来看,这比在你周围建墙要巧妙得多。我被自由、活泼的城市环境所吸引,在那里你可以看到人们和他们的日常活动,你可以成为其中的一部分,或者离开,在各种方向上。 

那么隐私呢?

我对隐私的概念相当怀疑,并且很欣赏那些对隐私没有问题的人。我不关心是否有人知道我在哪里使用我的苹果手机,我的银行账户里有多少钱,哪家公司为我办理保险。我不太认同那种,某些权威会挖掘我的私人数据并利用它来对付我的迫害妄想。这种痴迷使人们在他们的财产周围建立大型围栏,分割和封闭空间,而不是统一,甚至可能是共享。
今天,我们谈论的是一所房子——一个开放的共享空间的小火花,它可以被中立地使用,对私人领域之间的边界在哪里达成默契。我喜欢50x50住宅所提出的公共性。它与封闭、分割的空间完全相反。它本质上是现代的。

一个在每个方向上都是玻璃的住宅需要一定的土地或花园的边界。你不可能用这种住宅去衔接一个公共空间。 

我不认为密斯想主张这种住宅具有城市潜力。
它是在美国的郊区条件下开发的,不难想象,那里估计有足够的土地。正如你所说的,为了这个住宅你可能需要有一个环绕的花园。然而,我想说,密斯的想法在其最纯粹的意义上是一种结构和社会学试验,与区域规划没有直接联系。
密斯寻找原则和想法,并试图以最直接和激进的方式来表达它们。这使得这些原则和想法能够自在存活,并以另一种形式在其他地方重新浮现,我觉得这很吸引人。比起每个项目的特定形式,基本的原则才是最有趣的。源于同一概念的住宅不一定最终会相同;一个没有朝向的屋顶类型,柱子在轴线上,周围都是玻璃。例如,保罗・门德斯・达・洛查(Paulo Mendes da Rocha)的住宅,布坦塔住宅(Casa Butanta)是密斯主义 50x50理念的一个建筑实例,在某种程度上文脉是衔接的,采取另一种材料,另一种等级的开放性,然而它还是一个空间。尽管有许多间卧室,但卧室是开放的,墙壁没有上升到屋顶。当你在里面,感觉就像是一个博物馆的空间,非常优雅。 

正如你所说,在当时,它是如此的激进,以至于它从未被建造。你认为人们对这类空间的主要担心是什么?

我认为既有惯性也有方便的原因。有人需要对做标准以外的事情感兴趣,而大多数人并不感兴趣。我也能理解。我的意思是,并不是对所有家庭来说,分享一切是可以适用的。我只是觉得在某些情况下是可行的,这将是很棒的!
50年代的美国似乎相当有趣,显然一种高度多元化的知识文化正在发展。社会正处于现代化的边缘,艾森豪威尔的社会改革正在进行,后来,肯尼迪也准备登月了。
我可以想象,当时知识界对密斯主义提议的接受度比今天更宽容和开放。
无论如何,无论时代和人们的喜好如何,我确实很享受,功能、结构或空间的提议走得深远。当我看到不是所有的东西都能建成,因为工程师或者用户说这是不可能的,这给人一种感觉,我已经尝试到了极限,尽可能地推动了边界。试验提前结束的事实说明了雄心足够的大,这是一个好兆头,至少对我来说。

当我们看到这座住宅时,它是透明性和纪念性的结合。它表达了密斯主义的理念,即住宅与其说是寓所,不如说是一座庙宇。这座住宅是什么样的庙宇?

嗯,我在实践中使用的最重要的策略之一来自密斯,我认为它与你提到的层面有很大的联系。他说,如果你先解决编排和房间的布局,一切都会受阻,不可能出现一个清晰的构筑物。在我们事务所,在一开始,我们寻找一个清晰的构筑物,意思是——结构元素在空间中的逻辑安排,而不考虑空间功能。只有在后来,我们才会看到我们如何能把功能融入其中。我认为,这引起了纪念性的话题。寺庙蕴含着很有限的实用性功能。它们基本上是纯粹的构筑物。所有这些都是为了创造一个清晰的、由原则驱动的空间,以至于你会觉得是上帝自己做的。你可以发现一个很好的例子,比如说希腊的神庙,以及它们的结构与它们的字面意义上功能空间的占比。
这是我们日常建筑实践中一个重要的方面。如果我们为了论证一种灵活的空间布局,而采用了极少的资源和元素,那么构造就变得非常重要。这种策略并不关乎于空间布局,而是在于结构性思维,这需要以精确的方式进行构思。应用于住宅,它改变了寓所的特征,成为了一些更抽象的事物。如果构筑物具有首要性——它就会获得一种纪念性的的或者说是像寺庙一样的特征。我想这就是密斯的意思。

建筑能否承担使用困难的风险?如果你遇到这种批评,你会引据什么样的论点? 

有一种论点会说,每个阻碍都会告诉你更多的东西,而不是一切都顺风顺水,落实到位。一个使用中的障碍会让你明白生活的条件和如何处理它们。
例如,不是所有的教堂都是非常舒适的。座椅也许是硬的,你其实不能逛太多时间。它们往往没有暖气,有时它是一个潮湿的空间,大多时候是寒冷的,或者太暗。有些东西限制了我们的活动,是为了其他的目的。一个建筑可以拓宽我们的生存意识,它不仅限也不着重于一个舒适的环境。这始终是一个你想走多远的问题。
人类的许多活动都是如此。我是否买一个沙发,那种所有的布局中都会很舒适的,毛茸茸的景象?或者我买一个,我必须坐得笔直,可以进行交谈的?如果我穿一件熨得很挺的衬衫,打一条领带,我就不能打好篮球。如果我总想能做运动怎么办?我就得一直穿着慢跑裤和运动鞋。
一个人可以声称,建筑物应该总是满足每一个需求。但它们没有,而且无论如何,即使建筑物试图如此,它们也不会谈及任何事情。而这是一个重要的缺点。每件好的作品都涉及某些有价值的层面,有力量,但也有弱点。如果一部作品涵盖了所有的主题,它将永远不会是一个显著的存在。冲突总会存在。要在高层次上做到统一和民主,这几乎是不可能的。

一个人可以看到密斯在柏林的国家美术馆,并对其进行批判,因为楼下的展览空间并不真的令人振奋,而上面的入口大厅也不太实用,因为会有刺眼的阳光等等,加上整个建筑很难策展。但是,这一切其实并不重要,因为有趣的是它是如何构造的,如何构思的,建造过程是如何被创造的,屋顶是如何被掀起的,以及它所代表的含义。将建筑与当代技术的可能性和局限性相结合。最后,它不是一个好的建筑,因为这个或那个功能便利的总和。批评一些不可否认有突出品质的东西,就像批评一个非常有才华的建筑师、作家之类的,因为他或她不会打乒乓球。
如果密斯在今天做建筑,他仍然会是一个伟大的建筑师,他将以巧妙的方式解决所有的技术问题。这一点我很肯定。然而,他不会愉悦于面对某些问题和提供纯粹的服务。我深刻地欣赏这种激进的研究,因为它为生活带来了新的层面。它的目标不是回答所有的问题,也不能用来为所有条件产生通用的解决方案。试验将永远是特殊情况。但是这毕竟没有削弱它们的价值。

2021721

Jan Kinsbergen

Born in 1967 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. 1987-1993 studies of Architecture at the ETH Zurich. Diploma with Hans Kollhoff. 1993-1999 work at Steven Holl Architects. 1999-2001 own Architecture office in New York. Guest professor at the Columbia GSAPP University. 2002-2008 teaching and diploma assistant at the ETH Zurich with Adrian Meyer and Christian Kerez. 2002 founding of Jan Kinsbergen Architects Ltd. in Zurich.

www.jankinsbergen.ch