A TWO-LEVEL ENVIRONMENT
In Januari 1699 Jules Hardouin Mansart,
Superintendent of Buildings and "Premier
Architecte" to Louis-le-Grand, king of France, put
his signature to the design for what we now know
as the Place Vendome. (fig.1) His design included a
monumental fašade wall of exquisite proportions in
the neo-classical manner. The square, including the
fašade wall, was subsequently built by the city of
Paris on request of the King. But no buildings were
behind the fašade. The land behind was for sale. In
the next decade noblemen, bankers, tax farmers,
and other prominent and wealthy citizens who
served the king in various administrative and financial
functions built their houses there with their own
architects. These buildings kept changing and
adapting over time. But the fašade as Mansart built
it is still what we see today.
Mansart's scheme was a remarkable interpretation
of what we may call a "two -level organization",
by which we mean that one designer provides the
spatial framework within which other designers subsequently
can do their own. We have here an
instance of time-based building in a very straightforward
way. Mansart built what was to perform for
a long time and to serve many. He thereby provided
a context for what might change more frequently
and serve individual clients. In general, such a
distinction of levels of intervention separates what is
relatively permanent from what is relatively changeable.
But the way Mansart applied this principle
challenged conventional notions. The fašade of a
building is normally seen as the expression of that
particular building. Here it became part of the level
of urban design.
We are more familiar with a level distinction in
which the fašade of the building is part of the lower
level architectural design. When, for instance, H.P.
Berlage designed the new extension of Amsterdam
in the first half of the 19th century, he designed
public spaces like boulevards, streets and squares.
He also determined the height of the buildings
along these spaces, but architects designed them
and produced the fašades that made those spaces
An Abstract to read the whole article login.......