Maison de Verre and Its Contribution to Modern Architecture
“Form follows function.” Every great Modern architect thought, designed by and breathed these very words. Or at least, their design principles evolved from them. Modern architects Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Chareau, and Rudolf Schindler to name a few believed that the function determined the space whether the space was solely for a particular purpose or they overlapped to allow for multiple uses. Form didn’t just follow function, function defined the space. By focusing on the relationship between the architecture and the interior elements, Chareau’s Maison de Verre expanded the idea of functionalism to include not only the architecture but also the space it creates and how people function within that space.
First and foremost are the architectural elements. These encompass the structural components that Chareau uses to emphasize the current site’s condition, the regularity of the grid used, the characteristics of the materials, the spatial alignment of the program, and so forth. The Maison de Verre would not have been designed the same way if it had been erected elsewhere. The same design principles would have been apparent, but there were extenuating circumstances that the client and the architect encountered at the site. The clients, Dr. and Mrs. Dalsace, inherited the building and the surrounding property from her father, and had the sole intention of tearing down the existing building and resurrecting a new, modern structure that would showcase Chareau’s furniture designs. (Vellay 63). The only thing stopping them was an elderly woman who lived on the second floor of the existing building who refused to leave her apartment (Frampton 79). In order to accommodate both parties, Chareau’s design involved the demolition of the first floor and “the daring decision to permanently underpin the existing second floor with steel” (Frampton 79). (See Figure A) This innovative use of structural steel members allowed for Chareau to insert a 3-storey volume of steel and glass into the existing 2-storey masonry void. (See Figure B) This volume of space is completely cladded with glass block lens which allows for light to penetrate the entire space while providing privacy. (Frampton 80) At night the whole house appears to be glowing as if it were a Japanese lantern. (See Figure C) Chareau continues to play on this idea of transparency throughout the interior of the building.
Figure A – During Construction
Figure B – Exterior Front Façade Figure C – Exterior Façade
from Courtyard at Night
He established regularity with the framing of the exterior façade and then broke it down even further with the glass lens. In order to break up the monotony of the grid, Chareau inserted a few strips of plate glass similar...