Urban Fold

Two Influential Homes: Separated by Time, United in Spirit

Edwin Heathcote examines the common ethos that connects Kyoto's Katsura Imperial Villa and Los Angeles's Schindler House, "two homes, far apart in time and space, that influenced the modern movement."

Heathcote draws a line from Japan's traditional architecture, where "[w]alls are ephemeral – paper framed in slender wooden battens – and can be slid aside to disappear entirely and open up the rooms to the landscape or allow spaces to flow into each other," through Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Austrian emigre Rudolf Schindler who were highly influenced by the conceptions of space, materiality, and history found in buildings like the Katsura Imperial Villa. "Coming from cities hidebound in history where architects were constrained by respect for the existing fabric and forced to build in streets laid out of medieval palimpsests," says Heathcote, "they were profoundly impressed by this building existing in a landscape and generated by its own internal geometry."

Of Schindler's house on Kings Road in West Hollywood, which Heathcote calls "arguably the first modernist house in the US," he says "[i]t is profoundly Japanese in character: dark timber posts and beams filled in with white panels recall the paper walls of the Katsura Villa."

"Like the Japanese model, the walls were sliding and spaces flowed into each other. There were no corridors and there was no fixed hierarchy of rooms; this was a house with a fluid plan that presaged the modernism of Mies van der Rohe while also looking back to Frank Lloyd Wright’s wonderfully expansive plans."

"Wright himself was hugely influenced by what he saw in Japan but Schindler managed to imbibe more than style or impression, he translated the deceptively simple complexity of Japanese architecture into an American model."

Full Story: Proportional perfection

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