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
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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