Simple but fascinating build idea of a small house.
This essay will be analysing the function, aesthetics, form of construction and the use of materials of the Moore House designed by Charles Moore. It was built in Orinda, California in 1962.
The layout of the house consists of one room, one open bath, columns that attached to pyramidal roofs and smaller enclosed spaces. The columns are made of recycled wood. Eight columns separated into four to strengthen two aedicules with different dimensions, each of it has unique unsymmetrical pyramid ceiling. The creation of the aedicules is a reference to primitive style of architecture such as the primitive hut or Hindu Temple. The wider aedicule provides an area as living room where the client spent most of their time in. On the other side, the smaller aedicule encloses an open bath where there is a staircase for access as the floor level goes beyond the depth of the ground. There is no coverage for the bath area which might make the user feel slightly uncomfortable to use. The placements of bed are next to the bath area with a high bookcase in between. Some walls are also used to create or separate different tiny spaces like kitchen and the toilet. These are the only interior walls that was used in this open plan of the house. The sides of the house are surrounded with glass sliding doors. The doors act like sliding walls which slides opened and allows light to come in, this highlights the continuousness relationship between the environment and the structure itself. The two aedicules are painted in white, contrasted with the frames of the ceiling that was made of dark timber. Since natural light is one of the main sources of light, it can be travel through skylight, glass doors as well as reflecting from the white painted surfaces.
Using a square plan as the plan of the house suggests that the idea of designing this house is based on simplicity. Even though the plan of the house is a simple shape but is far more interesting than normal houses is because the columns are built in the interior space of the house whereas columns located at the corners of the house. Also, the house is exposed to the surroundings since it is very open, and this emphasised through elements such as how the natural light travels into the house, minimal use of interior walls, the placement of the wooden columns and glass sliding doors. I think the poor aspect of the house is that small quantity of interior walls was used, which means that most of the areas are left with less cover. This leads to lack of privacy for people who live in the house, for example, the bath and the toilet are not fully covered with interior walls. This might be inconvenient for large number of guests to stay, as a result it may ruins their experiences of visiting this house. Moreover, the lack of privacy portrays that the house design doesn’t benefit the people who plans to stay in comfort. In this project Charles Moore was able to conveys his architectural ideas freely involving unique placements of interior walls and columns in his design. This style of design was inspired by the essay called ‘Heavenly Mansions’ written by John Summerson where the importance of ‘aedicule’ was discussed. On the other hand, one of the positive aspects of this house design is the use of glass sliding doors which replaces the walls in order to cover up the corners of the house. This feature provides a connection the interior and exterior of the house therefore underlining the continuity and importance in between. As the doors slide opened, it allows the interior of the house to blend into the surroundings where the nature lies. In addition, the guests will be able to have a good view of the nature easily.
As mentioned, wood is one of the materials that was used to make parts of the building. While building this house, the idea was to use materials that are from the local area to make some features of the house such as wooden columns, the timber frames for the roof etc. The use of recycled materials suggests the idea of being environmentally friendly and the materials can be easily obtained since there are a lot of wood in Orinda. As the placement of the wooden columns are quite unique adding some good finishing like varnishing and painting to the wooden columns make the interior design stand out even more. It certainly will the first piece of ‘art’ that will be approaching to the guest. Not only it is aesthetically pleasing, it also provides a good support which balances out the main roof from the inside. The creation of the wooden columns is a great example of Charles Moore’s success. Using recycled materials doesn’t sound elegant at all in this case but was able to turn into something that shine in its own beauty. Using different materials have change the overall colour of the house, creating contrast between the white painted surfaces and the dark timber frames. As someone observes, they might see light and dark area that are well distributed under the pyramidal roof. The balance of this contrast could be controlling how the natural light is brought into the house, for example, the white surfaces can act as a reflector. Therefore, the choice of finishes and materials are playing an important role in this aspect.
Wood frames, the construction system of the house, it includes the main roof being supported by the raid of beams laid on the external walls, the wooden trusses under, two pavilions columns and wooden columns. It is not common for a main roof to balance well supporting by columns where they were placed at the centre of the house instead of at the corners of the house. The land where the house was built on was bought with a limited budget. This portrays that how the architect design with freedom where he was able to experiment with things which he thought was more important. This house design was only based on the requirement of Charles Moore himself. He is the only person that can be related in terms of basic interactions within the house. Due to his priorities, he had put more thought into the aesthetics aspect over the functionality. Therefore, there are some features not functioning properly and makes it difficult for any people to stay in the house.
After analysing the process of generalising this idea, Charles Moore’s way of living has influenced the design of the house. His financial situation has limited what he could which caused some area of the house needs improvement.
Neo-Vernacular is the style of Moore House. Vernacular architecture is a form of architecture design that is based on local needs, construction materials and traditions that defines the local area. Vernacular style of buildings cannot be reproduced anywhere, it belongs to a specific timeline and place. Traditionally, no professional architects were used, but incorporate the skills and knowledge of the local builders. Vernacular architecture has affected the built idea of Moore House because it involves the idea of using local materials. For example, materials like brick, timber and stone that are used to build the Moore House. In the local area, the vernacular designs seem diverse which means there isn’t a specific architecture design style, but their common feature is being a functional space that meets the local’s people demand. Some of the benefits of vernacular architecture are capitalising on local knowledge and providing connection between people within the local area. Neo-Vernacular is an evolution of vernacular architecture that drew on traditional materials which form an ‘action’ to go against International Modernism in the 1960s and 1970s. Some called it the Neo-Shingle style in the USA. When this is going on in the 1960s, Vernacular architecture has gained Charles Moore’s attention meanwhile other architects starting to turn towards Modernism. Then he slowly becomes one of the innovators of postmodern architecture. One of his postmodern architecture is called Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans (1978).
Piazza d’Italia, an urban plaza located in New Orleans. The structure itself was completed in 1978. It was designed as a public space for the Italian American community in America. Similarities can be found between the Moore House and Piazza d’Italia even though they are different type of buildings, having similar architectural features such as the use of columns and aedicule. The idea of light painted surfaces for the Moore House also applied to the surfaces that were seen in Piazza d’Italia. Light and shade that was shown cross the plaza corresponds with how the natural light reflected or travels into the Moore House in terms of the contrast of the surfaces. These two structures were designed in a way where ideas were freely expressed and on his own desires. However, Piazza d’Italia was built based on certain client or demand unlike the Moore House was based on the lifestyle of the architect himself. The plaza was conceived as a tribute to the contributions of Italians in that city and references the Italian culture and their achievement directly. This is the place where public realm could be enhanced, monumentality can be occurred or explored within this small public space. The commentator Allen Freemen criticised the plaza in the Landscape Architecture Magazine in 2004, the comment was ‘like one of those fruity, rummy Hurricane cocktails that you sip through a straw from a curvy glass garnished with an orange slice and maraschino cherry: colourful, over the top, and made of questionable ingredients.’ I think the structure received criticism is because it seems to have a disjointed relationship with the surroundings, the use of multiple vibrant colours is very eye catching but may not match the environment. However, vibrant colours could symbolise joy for the Italian community. This structure involved personal feelings and his aim to represent the community. His dedication to this project can be seen in an essay titled “Ten Years Later, ’where he mentioned: “What could be a more Italian shape than Italy? And what more direct, and therefore effective, cultural reference in a piazza dedicated to the Italian community?’’ His innovative approach in architectural design and fearless risk taking has shown success in postmodern architecture.
“Its forms admittedly derive from primitive huts and from Mayan or Hindu temples-to say nothing of the famous Trenton Bathhouses by Louis I Khan, and Moore makes it clear that he was thinking in broad and recollective terms when he made the design.’’ Trenton Bathhouses is one of Louis Khan’s remarkable architecture that influenced the built idea of the Moore House. It is designed as a public space for the Jewish Community Centre of the Delaware Alley. This building was active in 1955, it provides a changing area for patrons of an outdoor pool. The layout of the house appears to be in a cruciform, consists of four squared concrete blocks, a roofless forecourt at the centre and 4 pyramidal roofs hanging in each of the four corners. The height of the concrete walls is about 15ft. Rectangular columns are placed at each corner to support the roof which disjoints the roof sand walls and leaving a gap in between. The geometric pyramidal roof for the Trenton Bathhouses corresponds with the Moore House which explains his influence according to the similarity. Natural light, one of the elements that Louis Khan prioritises while designing this structure also appears to be an important aspect for the Moore House.
In 1967, Charles Moore participated in teaching at the Yale School of Architecture. He travels back to New Haven and wants to build his own office in the Moore House. This building eventually becomes his living or working space, as the days go by, the minimal lighting in the house has became an issue for the inhabitant himself. The house located in an area where there is less sunlight. The lack of daylight has given Moore an opportunity to rebuild the structure through many experiments in order to introduce natural light in the house. With his experience of dealing with natural light for the Orinda House, he was able to conquer this challenge effectively by inventing geometric shapes hollow onto the surfaces of the interior walls which results natural light passing through them and enhances the brightness within the house. The solution emphasises further that having more open space can gain a better control on the lighting in space.