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Rudolf M. Schindler

Rudolph Michael Schindler (1887-1953) is internationally recognized as a master of early 20'th century modern architecture.

Born September 10, 1887 in Vienna, Schindler studied construction engineering at the Imperial Technical College of Vienna. At first undecided between sculpture and architecture, he became a student of Otto Wagner at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts from which he graduated in in 1913. During this time he was also associated with Adolf Loos. In 1911, while in the Styrian mountains, he came to the fundamental concept characterizing his work: that space rather than structural mass was the modern architects definitive medium.

In 1914, in response to the European publication of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, Schindler traveled to the United States hoping to work with Wright. Wright hired him in 1917; the association continued until early 1923. Wright at the time had 2 major commissions, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the Barnsdall "Holyhock" House in Los Angeles. Schindler worked primarily on the Barnsdall house; he also helped in the early stages of Wright's concrete block experiments of the 1920s.

Schindler designed and supervised the construction of over 200 buildings following the termination of the Barnsdall House despite intellectual, regulatory, and financial obstacles. Schindler struggled for acceptance of his ideas from architects at large who favored the "Spanish Style". He struggled against regulators incapable of understanding his designs and thus reluctant to authorize construction permits, against banks that refused to authorize loans, and with members of the building trade reluctant to abandon traditional building techniques. Unlike other Californian architects most of his projects were private houses for clients with limited budgets.

Schindler designed and built his own house on Kings Road in Hollywood in 1921-22.


Schindler's Manifesto (Vienna, 1912)

The cave was the original dwelling. A hollow adobe pile was the first permanent house. To build meant to gather and mass material, allowing it to form empty cells for human shelter.

This conception provides the basis for understanding all styles of architecture up to the twentieth century. The aim of all architectural effort was the conquest of structural bulk by man's will for expressive form.

All architectural ideas were conditioned by the use of a plastic structural mass material. The technique of architect and sculptor were similar. The vault was not the result of a room conception, but of a structural system of piling masonry to support the mass enclosure. The decoration of the walls was intended to give the mass a plastic face.

These old problems have been solved and the styles are dead.

Our efficient way of using materials eliminate the plastic sculptural mass. The contemporary architect conceives the "room" and forms it with ceiling and wall slabs.

The architectural design concerns itself with "space" as its raw material and with the articulated room as its product.

Because of the lack of a plastic mass the shape of the inner room defines the exterior of the building. Therefore the early primitive product of this new development is the "box-shaped" house.

The architect has finally discovered the medium of his art: SPACE.

The new architectural problem has been born. Its infancy is being shielded as always by emphasizing functional advantages.

The first house was a shelter. Its primary attribute was stability. Therefore its structural features were paramount. All architectural styles up to the twentieth century were functional.

Architectural forms symbolized the structural functions of the building material. The final step in this development was the architectural solution of the street skeleton: Its framework is no longer a symbol, it had become a form itself.

The twentieth century is the first to abandon construction as a source for architectural form through the introduction of reinforced concrete.

The structural problem has been reduced to an equation. The approved stress diagram eliminates the need to emphasize the stability of the concrete.

Modern man pays no attention to structural members. There are no more columns with base, shaft and cap, no more wall masses with foundation course and cornice. He sees the daring of the cantilever, the freedom of the wide span, the space forming surfaces of thin wall screens.

Structural styles are obsolete. Functionalism is a hollow slogan used to lead the conservative stylist to exploit contemporary techniques.

Monumentality is the mark of power. The first master was the tyrant. He symbolized his power over the human mass by his control over matter. The power symbol of primitive culture was confined to the defeat of two simple resistances of matter: gravity and cohesion.

Monumentality became apparent in proportion to the human mass displacement effort. Man cowers before an early might.

Today a different power is asking for its monument. The mind destroyed the power of the tyrant. The machine has become the ripe symbol for man's control over nature's forces. Our mathematical victory over structural stresses eliminates them as a source of art forms. The new monumentality of space will symbolize the limitless power of the human mind. Man trembles facing the universe.

The feeling of security of our ancestor came in the seclusion and confinement of his cave.

The same feeling of security was the aim of the medieval city plan which crowded the largest possible number of defenders inside the smallest ring of walls and bastions. The peasant's hut comforts him by an atmosphere in violent contrast to his enemy: the out of doors.

Rooms that are designed to recall such feelings of security out of our past are acclaimed as "comfortable and cozy".

The man of the future does not try to escape the elements. He will rule them.

His home is no more a timid retreat: The earth has become his home.

The concepts "comfortable" and "homey" change their meaning. Atavistic security feelings fail to recommend conventional designs.

The comfort of a dwelling lies in its complete control of: space, climate, light, mood, within its confines.

The modern dwelling will not freeze temporary whims of owner or designer into permanent tiresome features.

It will be a quiet, flexible background for a harmonious life.