Kingston university session 2000/01

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Year 2 History and Cultural Studies 27 AR2 210 A + B

Compare how Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea and Peter Zumthor’s Art Museum at Bregenz respond to content and context, bodily movement and materiality, setting and spatiality as understood and described in phenomenology.



After a series of cultural studies, mainly throughout the 20th century, I will concentrate my interest to a quite resent idea of criticizing and perceiving the world, by claim to a universal and absolute truth, Phenomenology, which can be resembled as the culture of every day situations.

Culture can be taken as the deep context of human actions and situations that should be considered in design. Thus, spatial qualities become primary rather than architecture conceived as novel or iconic shape-making, while technology and production becomes subordinate to human ends.1

Beginning from the presentation of an analytical comparison of the two buildings: Villa Mairea by Alvar Aalto and Art Museum at Bregenz by Peter Zumthor, and it will be followed by a discussion of a phenomenological approach taking into consideration different views and thoughts.

            1. Content/site & architectural strategies

The Villa Mairea stands in the middle of a pine forest at the top of a hill in western Finland. The house looks mainly as continuous unbroken sketches of forest, with a narrow vista through an opening in the trees on to a river and sawmill.2

Aalto’s preliminary plans were freely sketched without the use of tools so that the unfettered creative urge for inventive shapes and irregular forms was allowed full play before functional relationships and details were resolved.

His use of complex forms and varied materials, acknowledged the character of the site, and gave attention to every detail of the building.3

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