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A NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT FLEXIBILITY

Abstract
By : Bernard Leupen

 
Houses have an average life span of about a hundred years, whereas households and habitats can change radically and repeatedly during that time. Consequently house designers are faced with the task of giving form to a shelter for dwelling for a period during which the composition of the household and the associated spatial rituals will go through major changes. Taking not the changeable but the permanent as a departure- point opens up new perspectives. The permanent, or durable component of the house, constitutes the frame within which change can take place. This frame defines the space for change. The frame itself is specific and has qualities that determine the architecture for a long period of time. The space inside the frame is general, its use unspecified; this space I have called generic space. In this sense the frame frees other parts of a building. Take, for example, the loadbearing column. It relieves the wall from acting in a loadbearing capacity, it frees the wall. A notion essential to the frame's functioning is that of disconnection. The column can free the wall by virtue of the fact that wall and column are not inextricably linked. A building can be separated up into a number of layers that together defines the building as a whole. Accordingly, the building can be regarded as a composition assembled from these layers. Each layer is distinguished from the others by the special role it fulfils. In the frame concept it is assumed that every layer may in principle serve as a frame. Basing my information on texts by Laugier, Semper, Loos, Duffy and Brand, I have made a distinction between the following five layers: 􀁺 Main loadbearing structure 􀁺 Skin 􀁺 Scenery 􀁺 Service elements 􀁺 Access In principle I distinguish three categories of changeability: the alterable, the extendable and the polyvalent. These three forms of changeability can be linked with three types of generic space. Should the generic space contain a layer that can be changed then we may describe it as alterable. Should the generic space not be bordered on all sides then it is a question of extendibility. Should the generic space contain no other layers while the generic space invites different uses through its form and dimensions, then we have polyvalence. To explore my concept, I present an overview of every imaginable combination of layers. This catalogue of frames is then divided among four distinct series of combinations. The basic combinations and the combination series, constitute the tools for designing houses that proceed from the frame concept. It was the intention of this study to develop the frame concept and the body of concepts attendant on it. Building upon its predecessors, I developed a stimulating resource for anyone involved in designing houses that are able to accommodate change. The potentials and limitations of the frame concept can be further explored as designing proceeds.
Ke ywords : Generic Space, Frame, Polyvalence, Alterable, Extendeble

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