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CO U RTYA R D S : Hooper House II & Atlanta Central Library Thomas Wales Interior Architecture


The Ho o p er H ouse II Located in the rural outskirts of Baltimore, Edith and Arthur Hooper’s “bi-nuclear” home is an excellent example of the formal separation between public and private, natural and man-made. The home is designed to link these two subjects through materiality and sequencing, focused internally around a central court and extending out onto Lake Roland and Robert E. Lee Park, Baltimore’s state bird sanctuary. Architects Marcel Breuer and Herbert Beckhard, with Landscape Architect Daniel Kiley, designed the form of this home with the intention of separating functions through formal manipulations in the concept of the family home. The courtyard and adjacent spaces are examined to gain an understanding of programmatic relations and materiality. The Hooper House II can be directly compared to the Fulton County Central Library’s fifth floor roof terrace. Though it is currently not open to the general public, the propotioning system and flattening of extended space can be directly compared for a better understanding of each. These two models of divided space are manipulated for the division of program and an internal/external relation unique to that of these courtyards. These observations are then applied to the renovation to form a coherent set of rules and regulations to govern the project.

Cover. Edith Hooper in the entryway. 1


Above. Hooper House II, front facade.2 Below. Hooper House II ground floor plan.3


Top. View upon arrival of the front facade.4 Middle. View from entrance before entering.5 Bottom. View through atectonic opening in the east facade.6


Upon arriving at the formal entrance to the Hooper House, one is greeted by a continuous fieldstone wall that stretches into the landscape. While the entry sequence leads to the large solid fieldinstone wall, one single break in the wall marks the entrance to the home. The house is not perceived as a three dimensional object at this point. As one nears the entrance, a depth appears that extends to and through the home. Stepping up onto the raised bluestone sidewalk, you must pass through the sixteen inch fieldstone wall into the entrance hall that opens up to the courtyard and extends from the courtyard to the lake. Landscape architect Daniel Kiley explains that: “the walk in nature is exciting and original, a fresh experience where you are going through a deep wood, maybe a grove of beech trees, then you come into an open meadow and you walk up the hill and then you come into the sugar maples, or “sugarbrush,” as they call it in Vermont, and you walk through that. You squeeze between the trunks, and it’s always moving and changing spatially. It’s dynamic. ... What I’ve been trying to do in my work is create a manmade scene having those attributes or characteristics”.7 This perspective of thresholds and sequencing are apparent in the Hooper home. This obvious choice of layering confuses the eye into perceiving the landscape as a flattened image or a surface on the exterior wall, framing the distant view for the inhabitants. While the presence of a landscape architect may not be directly apparent, under closer observation and examination of further writing, Kiley’s hand can be seen in certain instances.


As Masello states, “At a certain crucial point at the approach, the transparent quality of the house can be seen. Behind the wide entryway, with its two sliding glass doors, is a large courtyard at the end of which is another stone wall with a large opening. As a result, one can look literally through the house. And if both the front doors and the sliding glass door onto the courtyard are left open, one can walk right through the house”.8 The effect of layering materials and space create an understanding that seems to physically fuse the structure and nature. Once inside the home, a walkway crosses a reflecting pool leading into the court and out to the void. The eye sees from the front entry to Lake Roland. This transparency, with that of Kiley’s landscape, offer an evoking juxtaposition of manmade and natural surroundings.

Left. Entrance hallway connecting public and private wings, interior and exterior.9


While the material palette is limited primarily to stone and glass, Masello writes that “the vibrant rusts and grays of the Maryland fieldstone that comprise it are intrinsically decorative. ... This is a prime example of the notion that the material itself satisfies the need for surface interest– has decoration without decoration”.10 While the visually heavy stone walls are understood to be the structure of the home, the atectonic opening across the courtyard completely goes against the nature of fieldstone walls. Robert Gatje, of Breuer’s office, writes that this opening “still makes me uncomfortable”.11 This choice remains visually unsupported, making the hole even more awkward. With the upper mass floating over the opening, a low wall formally closes the courtyard.


Below. View from the east facade towards the entrance. In this original Breuer photograph, one can see through the entire house.12


While the public wing of the house has its own internal views into the courtyard, the private living and sleeping quarters have an unbroken fieldstone wall facing the courtyard. The obvious reasoning for this is to protect the family’s privacy when entertaining house guests. However, if the courtyard was glass on all sides (as is the Atlanta Central Library), the courtyard as a space would dissolve into the home. The low wall under the atectonic hole serves as both a boundary and a final destination in the sequence of the home. With one side of the courtyard treated as a solid, the space is defined internally and accepted as part of the entry sequence, but more particularly the family living room, leaving the private wing as its own separate space. Above. A perspective showing the entry hallway from inside the courtyard facing the public wing.13 Below. A perspective showing the entry hallway from outside the courtyard facing the public wing. 14


Above. Due to the amount of operable glass in the home, Edith Hooper requested built-in furniture to save wall space and optimize the floor plan.15


Above. The fieldstone wall, pictured here in the dining room, continues through the home. The attempt to dematerialize the interior from the exterior provides a direct connection between the two, bartering the exteriorized interior with that of the outdoor dining. 16


Left. The “playroom� of the private side of the home features is own smaller fireplace and mobile furniture. 17 Right. The fieldstone wall is shown to wrap the interior of the private wing. The left image is directly behind the tree. 18


F u l t o n C o u n ty C en tral Library Designed and built in the late 1970’s, Marcel Breuer’s Atlanta library is his building and his only structure in Georgia. It is a controversial and seemingly stagnant structure in the heart of downtown. Due to it’s large floor plates, heavy facade, and limited windows, it is currently seen more as brutal and mute to the city than a pleasurable civic amenity. Built to replace the Atlanta Carnegie Library, originally constructed on the same site in the early twentieth century, the Altanta-Fulton Public Library has already undergone one renovation in 2002.19 The building is seven stories with an extra two below grade, with a large three hundred seat auditorium underneath the public plaza along Peachtree Street. The outdoor terrace faces this same direction, nestling itself on the fifth story of the library, overlooking the plaza and Margaret Mitchell Square.

Left. Atlanta Central Library upon opening. The massive, weighty structure is currently surrounding by parking and towers.20


Though now closed to the general public, Breuer’s Atlanta Central Library originally had a rooftop terrace that housed movable, lightweight furniture and umbrellas. Though not written about when published, this space was a unique opportunity to be in an elevated exterior room in downtown Atlanta. Now, one must have permission to enter the space, which is primarily used by staff. Furniture and large planters occupy the majority of the space. While it’s original design meant to be used by the patrons, now it is something to be looked through and a source of light. Even if one does not occupy the terrace, a large window opens out onto the city as a final destination to the interior sequence of the library. These two works offer a perplexing situation in the later work of Marcel Breuer. The courtyard of the Hooper House does not feel like it should be inhabited, though a home with a central court would typically be inhabited. The Atlanta Library has a minimal amount of windows, though a standard library is thought of as a light-filled space. These odd details in occur both in large-scale and detailing.

Left. A Breuer office photograph that shows patrons inhabiting the rooftop terrace. The umbrellas and mobile furniture includes standard and lounge seating.21


Left. Atlanta Central Library rooftop terrace. Views look outward into the city. Right. Hooper House II courtyard looking outward into an organic collage of nature. 22


The interior courtyard of the Hooper House II is focused on its site and the natural landscape that surrounds it. The atectonic opening in the fieldstone wall frames that natural world in rural Baltimore. The rooftop terrace of Atlanta Central Library focuses on the surroundings as well, though they are completely man-made. Skyscrapers rise on all sides of the space while the opening focuses out of the front facade through a large glass pane, limiting the interference with the user and the city. Both the Hooper House II and the Central Library use these windows as opportunites to look out of a contained and specifically defined space. Neither frames a certain view, but rather projects a general and broader sense of a flattened view. The atectonic openings make the rural site feel more tame and the urban site feel more natural. An unambiguous tectonic opening would not have this same effect.


Top. Atlanta Central Library terrace from ground level. A single double-height hole looks down onto the street. Below. Hooper House II rear facade opens out towards Lake Roland. The void is the only opening from the courtyard. 23


Left. The sequence of entering the rooftop terrace frames the view of downtown Atlanta in a disappointing manner. Right. The sequence of entry in the Hooper House disarms occupants while framing the view into the natural surroundings. 24


For both structures, each detail was miticuloulsy hand drawn to Breuer’s specifications. As Gatje explains, “He was very particular about the way the stone was to be laid and insisted that if we were to expect the mason to do the job right, we had to draw it right”.25 While Breuer understood the similiarites between these examples, there is no writing that further explains the larger intentions of design. From the work at the Bauhaus, “the study of materials: precise representation made the student acutely aware of the structure of what he represented” .26 This course of his life is traced through his education and into his last public work. The details are all considered but in a manner that is not directly apparent. This material curation speaks to the strange atectonic language of the voids, but does not explain why these openings are treated as they are.


Above. During the design phase, each stone was drawn to insure proper construction. Windows do no align with the void, landscape design is not apparent, and the sill is situated at an awkward height.27 Below. Once again, the detailing is apparent, but what similarities are drawn from the Hooper House? Once again, the strange details of no cornice or base place users at a precarious edge.


In the renovation of Breuer’s Atlanta Library, how might these conclusions drawn from the Hooper House II be reimagined? With the intergration of technology and film into the library, a double-height auditorium is placed behind the heavy, blank face along Peachtree Street. Linking the terrace and the interior of the library opens up a large portion of the building. This void is treated as the holes in both the Hooper House II and the existing terrace of the library. By constructing the fly tower out of glass and curtain, the volume is dematerialized, even to that of a projection. This atectonic idea does not line up with the existing courtyard, nor does it face one view in particular. The stage at the front of the auditorium, as seen in the section on the left, is reminiscent of the ledge in the Hooper House, strangely familiar but not an obvious reference to Breuer. These chosen details connect to Breuer’s work without directly choosing the same details of his work. The sequence of the library is changed for the framing of the city through a series of thresholds.

Above. The interior of the new auditorium opens up to both the library and the terrace, blocked by a low wall. The lightness of the structure is apparent intertwining with the existing conditions. Right. The section perspective explains the relationship of the library, the terrace, and the auditorium to the variety of framed views. Each space can be viewed through two different perspectives.


Through Rykwert’s assessment, Breuer’s time at the Bauhaus was drastically influenced by the theories of Itten and Kandinsky. The thoughts of architecture and art maintaining a ‘spiritual’ quality is kept through the proposed renovation. By involving “the mind, the body, the senses and the memory, and the unconscious urges,” Rykwert places emphasis on the denaturialization of materials and modern processes in manufacturing.28 The ephemeral effects of a projection, the transparency of the glass, and the weight of the curtains coincide with the dematerialized and spiritual side of architecture. Rykwert’s Dark Side of the Bauhaus can be examined to begin to understand the nature of design that Breuer would have encountered. While traditionally thought of as the epitome of rational, the choices shown in Breuer’s later work leaves traces of the philosophy engrained in his education. The examined details of the Hooper House and the FCCL display atectonic choices that do not coincide with the rational approach of the Bauhaus. In the heart of an urban metropolis, the ephemeral charasterics break the rhythm and solidity of the city. “The meteropolis (says Mondrian) is nearer to the artist than nature, because in the city what is natural has already been stiffened up”.29 This sense of order sets the background for the Atlanta Central Library, allowing for a dematerialized interior behind the mute concrete facade. Left. The view from the cafe through the terrace connects these spaces to the new auditorium. The dematerialization of the addition create a vague boundary between the users and the city.


In conclusion, the Hooper House II and the Atlanta Central Library both contain oddities that do not completely align with the rational early work of Marcel Breuer. The voids found in both courtyards display an atectonic, illogical move that are motivated by more than just a simple idea. The material components seem to defy both logic and gravity as the portal to the outside world is opened. This opening, whether it is to rural Baltimore or downtown Atlanta, allows for a flattened view to serve as a window or backdrop to the activity of the contained volume.


Wo r k s C i t e d :

1.

Archives of American Art, http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/container/viewer/Photographs-of-completed-project-exterior-179638

2.

David Masello, Architecture Without Rules, 63

3.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-23oHnYeEThM/TaHDEMPxYeI/AAAAAAAAACY/urT9aP1c8cI/s1600/piantabreuer100_2.jpg

4.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://wreckorated.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_14.html

5.

“A Powerful Design in Fieldstone.” Architectural Record Houses of 1961, page 70

6.

Phillip Kinnecot, Dwell, http://www.dwell.com/house-tours/article/marcel-breuer-hooper-house-ii

7.

University of Virginia, The Work of Dan Kiley: A Dialogue of Design Theory, 9

8.

David Masello, Architecture Without Rules, 64

9.

David Masello, Architecture Without Rules, 180

10.

David Masello, Architecture Without Rules, 63

11.

Robert F. Gatje, MARCEL BREUER: A Memoir, 182

12.

Archives of American Art, http://www.aaa.si.edu/assets/images/collectionsonline/breumarc/fullsize/AAA_breumarc_278420.jpg

13.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://wreckorated.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_14.html

14.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://wreckorated.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_14.html

15.

Phillip Kinnecot, Dwell, http://www.dwell.com/house-tours/article/marcel-breuer-hooper-house-ii


16.

Phillip Kinnecot, Dwell, http://www.dwell.com/house-tours/article/marcel-breuer-hooper-house-ii

17.

Alexander Von. Vegesack, Mathias Remmele, and Barry Bergdoll, Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture : Vitra Design Museum, 227

18.

Alexander Von. Vegesack, Mathias Remmele, and Barry Bergdoll, Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture : Vitra Design Museum,

19. Metropolis, OVERDUE!, 28 20.

Alexander Von. Vegesack, Mathias Remmele, and Barry Bergdoll, Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture : Vitra Design Museum,

21.

Archives of American Art, http://www.aaa.si.edu/assets/images/collectionsonline/breumarc/fullsize/AAA_breumarc_265046.jpg

22.

Phillip Kinnecot, Dwell, http://www.dwell.com/house-tours/article/marcel-breuer-hooper-house-ii

23.

Hyman, Isabelle, and Marcel Breuer, Marcel Breuer, Architect: The Career and the Buildings

24.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://wreckorated.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_14.html

25.

Robert F. Gatje, MARCEL BREUER: A Memoir, 182

26.

Joseph Rykwert, The Necessity of Artifice, 47

27.

Wreckorated, May 14, 2011, http://wreckorated.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_14.html

28.

Joseph Rykwert, The Necessity of Artifice, 49

WALES.Thomas.writing  

Interior Architecture Thesis Investigation, Auburn University 2014.

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