Sunday, July 27, 2008

More on Schindler's Mackey Apartments, by Eric Chavkin

I just received this review of Mackey apartments from elseplace's contributing writer, Eric Chavkin. It is a great piece, interpreting some of Schindler's strategies and resultant complexities of this incredable building.

I was thinking about the Mackey apt. It is so playful, full of light with unexpected pathways, and the interlocking spatial organization is complex.
A Rubik's cube of space and surface, solid and transparent.
When I study the sections it is like a puzzle game where wood blocks are stacked high then carefully pulled, mindful of a collapse, leaving voids, varied ceiling heights, pushed and pulled depths.
The windows are voids, the rooms blocks, the interior volumes overlap and their intersections glazed. Drawings don't do justice.
This is Corbu's famous 'open plan' knocked on it side.
But Schindler's game is not a house of cards or a stack of building blocks. The apparent formalism is not at all arbitrary. Every opening, every break in the wall surface, each twist of a path, does something functional: to bring light down into the darker middle, open up a ceiling to the outside, a hidden cabinet, a second and third stairway. This is the aesthetic of functional expressionism.
Every piece has a purpose.

The exterior push-pull of the street elevation is a dynamic in-out surface play of glass and stucco.
It is the primary light gathering facade.
The Mackey may be an apartment but it looks like a very large, and very modern home. In contrast the rear elevation is an unexpectant symetrical solution that reflects the double functions of the bedroom layout.
But the side elevations are full of interplay, and fun to look at. The side facades, street hidden, recedes or project as function dictates: for utilities, drainage, shade, access and of course stairways.
There are two exterior wood stairways, connecting at different levels. One stairway reaches the roof deck and top level kitchen apartment.
This is where you want to begin in order to really understand and appreciate Schindlers spatial dynamics and skylighting strategy.
The winding room to loft to room walkdown opens up the passageway to unexpectant views of the lower levels, then ground and garden. The streetside topiary surrounds extended outdoor spaces and these are just more unexpected rooms.
It reminds us just how good an architect Schindler was.

Photos by spins LPs and srk1941 @ flickr

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