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Understanding Design Decision - Design Process of Sert House in Cambridge

Anne Zhou CEE120: Art of Building Professor Hines Dec.9th, 2013


CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Introduction If I can argue that everything that isn’t made by nature has been designed, then we need to have many perspectives to be able to solve problems and create new things. A lot of small decisions are made before we can say, “I finished my design”. It is important for designers to understand and be able to justify their choices, instead of choosing things almost instinctively or arbitrarily, or resorting to the age old “it just looks good.” We need to have strong reasons to back up our designs. This paper is an attempt to understand how design decisions are made in relation to designers’ own experience; that, on top of figuring out context and relevancy to the audience and the times. I am personally interested in hand sketching. I think for designers, drawing is a crucial skill to be able to think through internally and communicate with others externally. With the development of technology, architects are gradually turning away from hand sketch and generating computer drawings. In most cases, I think hand sketches contain far more documentation in the problem solving process that are very likely to be erased in computer software. Thus, computer-generated visuals tend to show only the final results instead of the process. This paper looks at the design process of Sert House in Cambridge through studying his sketches of layout diagram, section and elevation, writings, etc. Section A introduces Sert’s background and his house in Cambridge. Section B presents the context of the design, which is divided into two parts: Europe and America. This section gives the background of what is happening in Europe at the time and what is happening in America in terms of how architecture expressions are heading to. It serves as a good foundation for explaining some of Sert’s design decisions. Section C examines '

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

the design process through plan drawings, elevations and sections, and other sketches. This part is mainly assumptions I made through pondering through different configurations and details in the sketches. Methodology The choice of Sert house in Cambridge results from what is the best available hand sketch resource within the area. With help of professors and librarians at Tufts, I reached out to Frances Loeb Library at GSD. The Sert Collection includes drawings and plans related to his work, as well as photographs, slides, and manuscript materials. The project of Sert House in Cambridge is well documented. In the project folder, there are nearly 30 sketches showing his design process. It is also a relatively small scale project, which I am able to pay attention to both major and minor details. Another reason I chose Sert House is because of the nature of the project. This is a project where he is designs his own house. The idea of an architect designing his own house is very personal since it is an expression of his own design style. Since he was the dean of GSD at the time, it is important to look at how he express his believe in modern architecture. He also has the freedom to experiment, instead of designing for clients. The context in European and American are explained through examples and comparison. Research Resource The paper resources mainly come from one book on Sert, Jose Luis Sert19011983 by Josep M. Rovira, two books on GSD’s role in American Modernism, Inventing American Modernism by Jill Pearlman and The Struggle for modernism by Alofsin, and one book on European Modernism, The International Style by Henry-Russell Hitchcock

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

and Philip Johnson. The sketches from GSD library Special Collection are: 1) B12: Sert House in Long Island; 2) B103: Sert House in Cambridge; 3) CA100: Studio Project, the Design of a Week-end House, Gropius; 4) CA094: Studio Project, Two Houses in Belmont, Breuer.

FIGURE 1: Sert House in Cambridge, 1956.

Sert House in Cambridge 64 Francis Avenue. Cambridge, MA “I decided to make an experiment (with my wife’s permission) and build a single storey house with three patios. That kind of house I have been using in my plans for cities since 1947 for South America, seemed out of place in Cambridge to many people.” !

Sert, 1963

Above is a quote from Sert’s description of his house in Cambridge in a lecture “Changing views in the urban environment”, five years after he lived in the house. He designed the house in 1956 before moving to Cambridge from New York to take the

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

position of the dean of Harvard Graduate School (GSD). The house is on a plot that belongs to Harvard. The plot is a trapezoid shape around 10,000 square feet. It is a corner house at the intersection of Francis Avenue and Irving Street. The house covers 1/5 of the site, around 2,000 square feet. The 40x100 ft rectangle plan according to Sert, “could be contained on a minimum standard plot of 50x100ft”.1 It is a single storey house with three patios. Three patios are sheltered with brick walls and wooden fences from the street. The square footage of total patio area is larger than interior space. Program of the house includes kitchen, dinning room, living room, study, and two bedrooms with individual bathrooms. The form is justified by the advantages of privacy and economy. Sert’s vision of his house multiplied in a row to house 30 families on an acre shown his vision for modern dwelling, which he addressed in his book, “Can Our Cities Survive?” as a solution for a compact typology for town-planning.

FIGURE 2: Final Floor Plan and Elevations, 1956

It is commonly understood how difficult it is for architects to design their own house. So it is not surprised to find more than 20 variants of ground plan solutions at Sert Achieve at GSD, not including few more proposals for elevations and sections. From his ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 1

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Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 220

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

plan sketches, we can tell his main concerns were how to create easy accesses and most efficient space flow. His elevation and section sketches reveal his intention to bring in skylight. The building is viewed as a modern house in the area. Sert had several challenges bringing his Mediterranean house layout to the severe cold climate in New England. However, he seems to be happy with the result of “patios covered with white carpets�.2

FIGURE 3: Josep Lluis Sert and Timeline at the end of the paper, due to editing issues.

Josep Lluis Sert Josep Lluis Sert (1902-1983) is one of the most international Spanish architects in modern history. He was an architect, a town planner, and a teacher. He received a degree in architecture in 1929 from the Escuela Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona; in the subsequent decade he was among the leading young Spanish architects, active as well in the GATPAC movement and CIAM. Sert spent his career mainly in Barcelona (1928-1939), New York (1939-1956), and Cambridge (1956-1979). There are very few his projects in Barcelona. He gained an international reputation with his design for the Spanish Pavilion erected at the 1937 Paris Exhibition. The Joan Miro Foundation (1968) is a symbolic project where he shows his desire for simplicity, rationalism, and modernity through geometry shapes. He was cofounder of the GATCPAC (1930-1939), where he became close friend with Walter Gropius. After the Civil War Sert emigrated to the United States in 1939. In New York, his work ranged from private residences to museums to large-scale educational and ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 2

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Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 219

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

commercial projects. He was president of the CIAM (1947-1956). Sert began his teaching career in 1950, as a city planning professor at Yale University. In 1953, he was named Dean of the Graduate School of Design and the chair of architecture at the recommendation of Walter Gropius. During his productive time as Dean (1953-1969), Sert started a variety of innovations, including the establishment of the first formal professional degree program in Urban Design. In 1955, Sert opened his own design firm, Sert, Jackson & Associates, in Cambridge, MA. CONTEXT: Europe In order to understand what background Sert comes from, we have to ask, “what was happening in architecture on the continent of Europe at the time?” Since the middle of the eighteenth century, there have been attempts to achieve a unified architecture style, such as Classical Revival and the Medieval Revival. With new needs and new construction methods, it was difficult to create one style of architecture. Nineteenth century was a continuous eclecticism. It was not until early twentieth century, the term International Style was identified by Hitchcock and Philip Johnson at the exhibition in MoMA. The International Style gave few principles to architecture expression that are free and broad enough to permit individual interpretation. “First, a new conception of architecture as volume rather than as mass. Secondly, regularity rather than axial symmetry serves as the chief means of ordering design. These two principles, with a third proscribing arbitrary applied decoration, mark the productions of the international style.”3 The new style is not international in the sense that countries are producing same work,

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Hitchcock, Henry-Russell and Johnson, Philip, The International Style, W.W. Norton&Company, Inc, 1922. Page.36

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

but parallel experiments are being carried out. Modernism was moving towards abstraction based on line, color, shape, space, and texture. CONTEXT: AMERICA (GSD) Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) was founded in 1895. The history of GSD is important in understanding American Modernism, because the school played a critical part in shaping the course of modern architecture and the modern city. The programs later became models for other institutions; the students became teachers of schools that lead modernist ideas and practicing architects started advocate modernism throughout the United States. With modern movement happening in Europe around 1920s, American top universities were still offering Americanized Beaux-Arts programs despite criticism from both students and people who are interested in modern design. When the Depression hit, teachers, students, and architects joined forces to argue that the theories of the French system is not suitable for the mass unemployment at the time. As the Depression helped loosen the hold of the Beaux-Arts system in schools, Joseph Hudnut brought Walter Gropius to the GSD in 1937. The Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius transformed Harvard’s old Beaux-Arts school to a radically new school. Gropius promotes his Bauhaus philosophy at the GSD, especially through the creation of Basic Design preliminary course modeled on that of the German school. Figure 4 and Figure 5 are a comparison of two studio projects in America before and after Gropius came to GSD, demonstrating the change in schools. First project is at Columbia in 1917 when schools in America were still promoting the French Beaux-Arts, the second project is Gropius’s studio project in 1946. The comparison also illustrates GSD’s role in American

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Modernism as an educational institute. We can see in Gropius’ studio project in 1946. The assignment was to design a weekend vacation house for a young architect himself. He especially points out in the assignment sheet, “The house will advertise his professional services, thus needs to achieve a definite architectural quality in terms of charm and livability.”4 Paul Rudolph, later became a well-known architect, was Gropius’ student at the GSD at the time. Figure 4, we can see a very pristine geometry, completely different from Beaux-Arts expression. Sert became the dean of GSD after Gropius, continuing to bring European ideas to the school.

FIGURE 4: Joseph Hudnut, “Plan for a Country House,” Columbia University student design problem, 1917.

FIGURE 5: Gropius’ studio project, 1946, “Architect’s Weekend House”, Paul Rudolph’s assignment

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Gropius assignment, GSD student studio project, 1946

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Sketch The plan sketches are not documented with dates. Thus, I put them in order from least to most similar to the final design. Similar sketches are ordered according to how detailed the notes are. Few sketches are clearly variations of previous layout, for example, sketch E and F. Sert tends to sketch in a quite free hand style. He does not use rulers or scale. Dimensions seem to be mostly eye balled or with the help of lines on paper. He sketches in mostly yellow notebook paper that has lines, or on the back of letters people sent him. He does not use trace often. Several similar sketches where he played around with mirroring the program were all redrawn on notebook sheets with same dimensions. However, the content in his sketches show an extreme richness in his thinking through design process. He tends to lay out all related information on one single piece of paper and arrange them in a way that’s easy to read and refer to. Sketch G is an excellent sample of Sert’s sketch. It contains detailed information for a site plan, a ground layout, a roof plan and landscape design, as well as calculations for room area and building cost, notes for façade and interior design. He also color codes drawings to make them easy to read. All those different layers of elements indicate his design concern in terms of designing a modulor system with golden ratio, building relationship between solid and void, creating interesting spatial flow through different spaces, etc. Out of more than 30 sketches, I chose eight plan sketches, seven section and elevations, and 2 other sketches, that I think are most significant in expressing his solutions for solving different problems. Those sketches are divided into three series. First is initial layout sketch (Sketch A and B). Second series of plan sketches are more similar to final design

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

(Sketch C to H). Third series of elevation and section sketches illustrates his process solving roof and faรงade design (Sketch I to Q).

FIGURE 6: Sert House in Long Island Top, view of the new wing Bottom, Cross Section Cut

FIGURE 7: Section Cut Top, Section for Cambridge House Bottom, Section for Long Island House

Plan Layout The first series of sketches denote a strong influence from the house in Long Island where Sert lived when first moved to America and before moving to Cambridge. Long Island house is a renovation project where Sert demolished half of a former stalecum-garage structure and designed a new wing housed the main living space. The cross section cut (Figure 6) shows the union and contrast between two radically different bodies. Since the Cambridge house is a complete new structure, Sert had the freedom to design without worrying about existing conditions. In Sketch A, he is playing with the same idea of organizing floor levels with a half storey difference in height. The entrance, the kitchen and the dinning room are half above the level of the living room. However,

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

he decided on a single storey house, according to his own reason, “with the money I had, a two-storey house isolated on the plot looked like the dog’s kennel in comparison with the wood and brick mansions all around”.5 He was definitely concerned about how his modern European design integrates with the Cambridge neighborhood. Until today, 60 years after its completion, the house still stands out from its surroundings.

FIGURE 8: Pavilion of the Spanish Republic, 1937, Sert with Lacasa, Paris

In Sketch A, we can see a hint of modulation across with three equal parts of 15 feet and two vertically. I understand Sketch B as Sert’s thinking through how to work out the programming with a modulor system. Sert is largely influenced by Le Corbusier’s use of golden ratio in his Modulor system for the scale of architectural proportion. The system seems to be a continuation of Vitruvius, who used the proportions of the human body to improve the appearance and function of architecture. Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein in Garches (1927) illustrates golden rectangles in its ground plan, elevation, and structure. Sert also believes the philosophy of golden ratio brings harmony to the design. We can also see many other traces of Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture in Sert’s design.6 For example, Sert together with Lacasa, designed the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Paris in ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 5

Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 219 6 Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, BN Publishing, 2008. Page 47

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

1937. We can see a grid of reinforced concrete piers bearing structure load, horizontal windows, open plan for ground floor, etc. The dimensions of all rectangles are carefully thought through.7 Golden Mean relationships were established wherever possible, so as to unify the whole. Second series of plan sketches show Sert’s process of sizing and locating patios. He started with one single large patio in Sketch A as we saw earlier. Later sketches show that he decided on having a studio patio at the front, a square main patio in the middle, and a smaller patio at the back. Sketch C presents a L-shape ground floor plan with compact body and a segregated service room and kitchen forming another arm. In the same Sketch C, an elevation façade facing Irving Street is studied. It seems to indicate wooden planking façade with pounded windows. At this design stage, where the relation between the dinning room and living room is similar to the final one, design of the stairs show that bedrooms are still a half storey different in height. Section sketch L and perspective sketch M are mostly likely to have been developed during the same time with plan sketch C, showing shifting of floor levels. Sketch D presents an U-shaped layout, facing south east. If we compare sketch C and D, we can tell that Sert made the change to have a one single floor house. In sketch D, we don’t see staircases on the plan, as well as in section. My assumption for Sert’s decision simplifies the house to a single floor house mainly comes from his concern for cost. We can see that Sert tried to bring the same idea from his Long Island house, where the study is leveled half storey from studio. It is worth noting that in his Long Island house, he was giving the advantage of being in a former barn house. For the renovation ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 7

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Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 107

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

project, he was given the condition of an existing high ceiling space, where adding another floor for the study seems reasonable. We can read in sketch that he tries to have the bedrooms separate from living room floor to provide more privacy. However, for a new structure, building up taller requires more material and more construction cost for floor slabs and staircases. Thus, he arrived in a single floor house. Sketch D for the first time situates the dining room and the living room in continuity, separated by the fireplace. The living room in a central position opens to the north east onto a patio created by a fence. The family bedrooms face the service bedroom and the office. The dinning-room has a patio of its own to the south east, beside the service patio. Sketch E is the symmetrical of sketch D along Irving Street. Sketch F is the symmetrical of sketch E along Francis Avenue. The central living room has been turned to face south west. The entrance creates a small waiting space with steps leading to the study and a passage to the kitchen. Sketch F switches kitchen to the front side of the building, closer to Francis Avenue. The comparison of sketch E and F shows Sert’s concern of entrance and exit, and space flow. Different from sketch E, sketch F propose an additional entrances through the studio patio on Francis Avenue side and another entrance to the living room on Irving Street. Sketch G keeps the ground plan U-shaped and facing south west. Now the living room and the dinning room are moved to facing studio patio instead of bedrooms or service area. It is a more definitive solution to the day, night and service zones. A long hallway connects the entrance on Francis Avenue, through studio patio, living room, passing service area to the bedroom at the back of the house. A cross cutting axis is presented in sketch G, where another axis perpendicular to Francis Avenue cuts through

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

main patio. He is constantly thinking about accessibility and circulation as he mirrors layout of the program. Sketch H is the most similar sketch to the final design in the achieve. It seems like from sketch, Sert shifts the hallway to the other side the main patio. Now the main patio is completely separated from the street. This move changed the place from a Ushape to a O-shape. The main patio now appears as an interior patio, because the open side of the U which was closed by a wall has now been cleverly transformed into a study room. Now we see three bathrooms and three patios in the back of the house and the living room, the dinning room at the front. The main patio, service area, and study serve as the transition space between the day zone and the night zone. The final design is quite similar to sketch H, with some minor changes for the bedroom layout and garage entrance.

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

SKETCH A

SKETCH B

SKETCH C

SKETCH D

SKETCH E

SKETCH F

SKETCH G

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SKETCH H

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Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'


CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Roof and Façade Design Roof and façade design are studied through a series of elevation, section, and perspective sketches, categorized as the third series of sketches. Starting from sketch I, the plan is still remained as one compact body with one front patio. From elevation diagrams, we can see Sert sketching out his idea of whether to use arched or angular roof. The arched roof sketch quickly reminds me of Miro’s Studio in Barcelona that Sert designed couple years before his house project in 1953. We see exactly the same shape in his sketch for Miro’s Studio and sketch I.

FIGURE 9: Joan Miro’s Studio, Palma de Mallorca, Elevation

SKETCH I

Interestingly, we see the final roof form in the same sketch, to the left of plan. Even though Sert has many other sketches later on showing different roof solutions, he has the idea of tilted up roof design from the very beginning. Section J and K are an interesting move, showing what Sert did with a traditional pitched roof. Instead of two pitched rooflines meeting in the middle, he has them go across each other to let daylight in. Natural daylight has always been a big design element in Sert’s project. Sketch P seems to be the same sketch that Sert copies from sketch K, because they are both marked as B with same kind of color pencil. However, in sketch P, Sert starts to extent

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

the roof line into the sky and bring them down further out of the building. Sketches after sketch M are done after he made the decision to build a single floor house, because we no longer see two floors in section drawings. In sketch O, he is playing around with where these roof openings happen and how tall do they go. I talked about plans on sketch E and F earlier. Here, I want to point out two elevation drawings in sketch E and F on page 19. Sert placed the same idea of roof formation alone two faรงade of the main space. Here, he studies the opening direction of where daylight comes in. As we can see in the final design, he decides on having the openings facing south west and east north in sketch F. The roof profile lines are parallel to Francis Avenue. Sketch Q is a faรงade study, looking at where the openings are on the facade. Two elevations on the bottom show that skylights only happen above the living room and the dinning room, not in the bedrooms. I think the reasoning behind is to have skylights for only the day zone, since the living room and the dining room are one continuous space. Creating two skylights on each end brings a unified design of the space. Material is noted carefully in sketch Q, showing where brick is used and which faรงade is painted white. The elevation drawing in the middle of sketch Q has an arrow connecting to an arched opening in the center of the living room. Sert puts a question mark under the arched opening option, expressing other options for a skylight opening. However, the arched opening does not look harmony with the rest of the building. Sert designs his house to provide a lot of privacy. He not only separates the house from the street by having a central patio and courtyard enclosed with fences, but also creating privacy within the house. The top perspective drawing in sketch Q shows three main patio faรงade. Three faรงade show three levels of privacy. On the left is a solid

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

façade with only one window. Behind that wall is the reception area where people first enter the house. Sert might want to put a solid wall there, so that people won’t be able to see the entire space once they enter the front door. Oppositely, living room and kitchen have a lot of transparency looking into the main patio. Another example is in sketch D, the family bedrooms face the service bedroom and the office, which is why we see the note ”no window” on the façade of the rooms giving onto the patio. The dining room has a patio of its own to the south-east.

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

SKETCH K

SKETCH J

SKETCH P

SKETCH L

SKETCH M

SKETCH O

SKETCH Q '

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Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'


CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Construction Cost and Interior Sketch We can find calculation for cost all the way back to Sketch C, when layout of the plan is still quite different from the final design. This is evidence showing Sert’s concern for building cost starts from a very early on stage (Sketch R). Building cost was influencing his design decisions. The house was built in a very short time. The plans are dated July.1, 1957 and Sert moved there in the first few days of 1958. The fast speed of construction could be a merit of American system of balloon fame construction, since the structure of the house is quite simple.8 For Sert, design as whole is important. In Sketch S, he sketches out interior shelving system for the living room in relation to interior view to the main patio and how art pieces would look in those punched holes. His love for art and architecture is shown here. In most of his projects, there are art piece to complete the space he creates.

SKETCH R

SKETCH S

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Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 220

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

It is noteworthy to mention CIAM here. The formation of CIAM (founded in 1928 and disbanded in 1959), marks the determination of Modernist architects to promote and finesse their theories. Among members of CIAM, they discuss the great questions of urban living space. The documents they produced, and the conclusions they reached, had a tremendous influence on the shape of cities and towns the world over. Gropius and Sert were among the most active members of the group. They urged modern architects to rethink architecture.9 In 1947, Bridgewater hosted the 6th CIAM. The event addressed, for the first time, the formal aspects of architecture, which the CIAM had excluded throughout its existence. One topic was “ the impact of Contemporary Conditions upon Architectural Expression�, examined the potential dialogue between architecture, sculpture and painting. Now architecture was reminding us that it was a synthesis of all the arts. New times required new means of expression. The question of what is happening to Modern Architecture?.10 A Patio House Sert designed three patios for his house in Cambridge. Each of which differs in size, shape and function. The patio facing the street is the largest, is partially paved and is used for dining and sitting outside. Sert calls it the studio patio. The central patio, 24 square foot, is almost completely paved primarily serve as an extension of the living room. The rear patio, with its decorated fence, is unpaved and is used for sun bathing and gardening. Large glass areas open to these landscaped outdoor rooms enclosed by whitewashed brick walls and wooden fences. You are able to see through sky, treetop ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 9

Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001. Page 97 10 Rovira, Page144

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

when season changes (Figure 11). The window openings have been carefully proportioned and positioned to allow an uninterrupted view from front fence to rear fence, through a series of indoor and outdoor spaces. It is designed to give the illusion of much greater size and a remarkable feeling of space. The patio house is truly a modern design, trying to move towards abstraction and reject historical styles and ornamentation. The patio concept reminds me of Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. You see both of them are very simply geometry enclosing space. However, design purposes are completely opposite. Sert tries to create privacy for individual dwelling, whereas Mies van der Rohe tries to have an open ground floor plan for visitor to flow through the space.

FIGURE 10: Sert House in Cambridge Interior Views

Architecture and town planning were two inseparable concepts for Sert and both are studied in depth throughout his career, especially during his years at GSD, where he started the first program for urban design. Sert house in Cambridge has been presented by himself as a solution to the first urban function – the dwelling. Such housing units can be easily multiplied and apply in town housing. The inward looking house is a great invention, completely opposite from traditional outward looking houses in America.

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Patios are frequently found in areas where weather is nice throughout four seasons, so people can enjoy spending time on the patio all year round. Sert brings his Mediterranean tradition to his house in Cambridge. However, he treats them in a very different manner. Instead of open to exterior, Sert designs patios to serve as roofless rooms, which are enclosed with walls or fences. Therefore, all views to exterior are controlled to provide privacy. Compare traditional outward looking houses, the view to exterior is most often into a neighbor’s window or unattractive streets, especially in urban condition. The new system provides advantages in self-control, privacy and economy through the use of the fences. At the same time, individual owners can express their taste in terms of decoration and façade style without invading adjacent house, since the combination of units produces a unified street façade of simple walls and fences to conceal what’s on the other side. We can see Sert has decorated his studio patio walls with painting directly drew on the fences (Figure 12). In Sert’s later project, Peabody Terrace on Harvard campus (Figure 13), we see a connection to his Cambridge house. Instead of coping units in rows, supposedly, Sert tried to stack them on top of each other to create privacy and efficiency in solving housing problems.

FIGURE 11: patio and Peabody terrace

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FIGURE 12: Peabody Terrace, Cambridge, 1964

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CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Conclusion After studying Sert’s design process for his house in Cambridge, I can draw a conclusion that it is a very complete design. My first reaction to a three-patio house was questioning how spaces are used inside out. However, after examining his sketches, reading his design goal, and understanding the design context of a town-house unit, I can see the house as a livable and quite personal enjoyable space to live in. This is surly a very unconventional house. It brings people together into harmonious combination with architecture, nature, and the fine arts. It is a significant house because it proves that the patio concept can be fruitfully applied in a New England climate. Through studying Sert’s design process, I learned certain design principles are extremely important to him. For example, dimension ratio, how the layout function as a unit that can be multiplied, visual connection in different spaces, etc. Those elements are addressed several times before he arrives with a solution. Sometimes he even goes back to an earlier solution to try out different configurations. Architects also have the option to show his or her own design expression in the broader architecture context. Sert has done a great piece of architecture not only for his own family, but also as a showcase of what his idea of modern dwelling Barcelona New Yorkis. Cambridge 1928

1902

1939

1922

International Style Exhibiton in MoMA

1956

1937

Gropius started at GSD

1979

GSD: French Beaux-Arts system 19th Century Eclecticism in architecture expression

1902

GSD: German Bauhus system International Style in Europe

1928

Modern Architecture

1956

1939

Barcelona

New York

1950 teaching Urban Planning at Yale

1929 Escuela Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona

FIGURE 3: Josep Lluis Sert Timeline

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1983

24'

1956 Sert House in Cambridge

1979

Cambridge

1953-1969 1955 Established Dean of GSD his own firm in Cambridge

1968 Miro Foundation in Barcelona

1983


CEE120:'Professor'Hines' ' Final'Paper:'Understanding'Design'Decision' '

Nov.23,'2013' Anne'Zhou'

Bibliography Alofsin Anthony, The Struggle for Modernism, W.W. Norton&Company, Inc, 2002. Gropius, Walter, GSD student studio project assignment, 1946 Hitchcock, Henry-Russell and Johnson, Philip, The International Style, W.W. Norton&Company, Inc, 1922. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, BN Publishing, 2008. Pearlman, Jill, Inventing American Modernism, Univerity of Virginia Press, 2007 Rovira, Josep M. Sert, Half a Century of Architecture, 1928-1979, Fundacio Joan Miro, 2001

Figure FIGURE 1: Sert House in Cambridge, 1956 FIGURE 2: Final Floor Plan and Elevations, 1956 FIGURE 3: Josep Lluis Sert Timeline FIGURE 4: Joseph Hudnut, “Plan for a Country House,” Columbia University student design problem, 1917 FIGURE 5: Gropius’ studio project, 1946, “Architect’s Weekend House”, Paul Rudolph’s assignment FIGURE 6: Sert House in Long Island. Top, view of the new wing Bottom, Cross Section Cut FIGURE 7: Section Cut. Top, Section for Cambridge House. Bottom, Section for Long Island House FIGURE 8: Pavilion of the Spanish Republic, 1937, Sert with Lacasa, Paris FIGURE 9: Joan Miro’s Studio, Palma de Mallorca, Elevation FIGURE 10: Sert House in Cambridge Interior Views FIGURE 11: patio and Peabody terrace FIGURE 12: Peabody Terrace, Cambridge, 1964

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Understanding Design Decision_Anne Zhou  

This is a research paper on Sert's 30+ original hand sketched from Sert Achieve at GSD on his house in Cambridge, MA. Through his sketch pro...