• McCarter’s book embraces, rather than the “distancing form of a building, placing it in front of us as an object for aesthetic speculation,” the primacy of interior space in modern architecture that provides us “the feeling of embodied, haptic intimacy” of our experience. The “woven plan” of F. L. Wright, Raumplan (room plan) of Loos, and Plan Libre (free plan) of Le Corbusier were the main concepts that the author tried to explicate. His assertion that Wright initiated the spatial conception (the space within) in modern architecture nevertheless can be argued otherwise. Even though he acknowledged the spatial innovation of Loos and Le Corbusier, McCarter is without doubt a typical American architectural writer, not only he acknowledge Dewey, Holl but also he maintained that the modern spatial conceptions developed out of the rejection of Beaux-Art tradition. In addition, McCarter’s idea obviously leaned toward Juhani Pallasmaa’s emphasis on the sensory effect of architecture in terms of tactile intimacy, or in McCarter’s words, “near at hand,” which is, I believe, fundamentally distinct from the notion of spatiality that largely relies on visual experience and bodily movement.
  • Essentially structured as a constellation of quotations with respect to “space with,” this book reflects the author’s habit to open a new paragraph with an assertion followed by a short “quotation” from architects. Therefore, it contains a very good and helpful bibliography that can be seen as a compensation to what Cornelis Van de Ven and Adrian Forty had pulled off, such as Luigi Moretti [‘Structures and Sequences of Spaces’, trans. Marina de Conciliis, in Luigi Moretti: Works and Writings, ed. Federico Bucci and Marco Mulazzani (New York, 2002)]; Peter Magyar [Spaceprints: A Handbook of Applied Topology in Architecture (Auburn, AL, 1984), and Thought Palaces (Amsterdam, 1998)]; and Dom Hans van der Laan [Architectonic Space (Leiden, 1983)]; Gail Satler’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s Living Space, among many other.

Besides, McCarter mentioned that he had written a very interesting early essay called “Folded Space, Boundless Place: The House of Frank Lloyd Wright” in Global Architecture: Houses (1990). His interest in interior space was originated when studying with Caroline Constant. The conceptions has reinforced in later years by his studios of the works such as Aalto, van Eyck, Scarpa, Breuer, and in particular Kahn, who believed “the room is the beginning of architecture,” (which was also the reason why Van de Ven decided to write his dissertation on space) and the work of contemporary architect such as Wiel Arets, who argues for the importance of what he calls “interiority,” and Holl, who insisted on designing “with emphasis on the interior experience,” and Kathryn Dean, whose spaces are conceived through “the excavation of use”; and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, who believe that “what lasts” in architecture is the interior space, and that buildings are important in our lives “because of the interior.”

Posted by:Liyang DING

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