Primitive Place Types

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The ancient dolmen seems to have been an architectural metaphor for a cave, constructed as a place for the deposition of the remains of the dead.

As time has passed the places people use have become more diverse, more sophisticated, and more complex in their interrelationships. Some types of place are ancient: the hearth as the place of the fire; the altar as a place of sacrifice or a focus for worship; the tomb as a place for the dead. Other place types are more recent: the airport, the motorway service station, the cash-dispenser.

The most ancient types of place are those which are to do with the fundamental aspects of life: keeping warm and dry; moving from location to location; acquiring and keeping food and water, fuel and wealth; cooking; sitting and eating; socialising; defecating; sleeping and procreating; defending against enemies; worshipping and performing ritual; buying or exchanging goods and services; story-telling and acting; teaching and learning; asserting military, political, and commercial power; discussing and debating; fighting and competing; giving birth; suffering 'rites of passage'; dying.

It is the concept of place that links architecture to life. The places which people use are in intimate relation to their lives. Living necessarily involves the conceptual organisation and physical arrangement of the world into places: places to work, places to rest; places to be seen, places to spectate; places which are 'mine', places which are 'yours'; places which are pleasant, places which are nasty; places which are warm, places which are cold; places which are awe-inspiring, places which are boring; places that protect, places for exhibition; and so on.

Like language, architecture is not stagnant. Both language and architecture (as identification of place) exist through use, and are subject to historical changes and cultural variation. Social institutions evolve; beliefs differ about the relative importance of particular facets of life, and hence so does the need for places to accommodate them. Aspirations become more, or less, sophisticated; some places become redundant; needs for new types of place become apparent; fashions come and go; linkages (physical and electronic) between places become more sophisticated.

In language a particular meaning can be conveyed in different ways, using different words in different constructions. The words and their patterns have to be in accord with the intended meaning, otherwise it is lost in nonsense or a different, unintended, meaning emerges. The various ways of saying something may just be different; but variations in vocabulary and construction can also add subtlety, emphasis, stylistic nuance, or aesthetic quality. It is the same in architecture; places with similar purposes can be identified architecturally in different ways.

Places are identified by the elements of architecture. A place for performance might be identified in any of a number of ways: by a platform, by a spotlight, by a circle of stones, by a number of marker poles setting out an area of ground; a place of imprisonment might be a small dark cell, or an island, or a deep pit, or the corner of a classroom.

The identity of a place also depends on the ability of someone to recognise it as such. A person has to be able to recognise a place as a place; otherwise, for that person, that place does not exist.

A place might have many interpretations. A person might see a wall as a barrier, another see it as a seat, another see it as a path along which to walk; one might see it as all three at the same time.

Places can overlap with others. A bedroom has a place to sleep (the bed), but it also has places for getting out of bed, for sitting and reading, for dressing and undressing, for looking in a mirror, for standing looking out of the window, maybe for doing press-ups; these places are not distinct, but intermingle within the room, and perhaps change their identities from time to time. At a larger scale, a town square can be a market place, a car park, a place for performance, a place for eating, a place for meeting, for talking, for wandering.all at once.

Primitive place types

Amongst this complexity, some place types have acquired their own names—hearth, theatre, tomb, altar, fortress, throne— that reach far back into history. Their ancient names are testament to their age-old roles in the lives and architecture of people through history.

Although such place types are ancient, and have a consistent conceptual identity (a hearth is a place for a fire, a theatre for performance, a tomb for the dead, an altar for worship, a fortress for defence, a throne a seat of power), their architecture (their conceptual organisation by the use of basic and modifying elements) can vary greatly. A purpose does not necessarily determine the architecture of its place; many purposes, even the most ancient, have been accommodated architecturally in very different ways.

The relationship between architecture and the names of place types with ancient purposes can be confusing. The word tomb might evoke a particular example in one's mind, but the architecture of tombs through history has been very varied.

The names of place types in architecture can seem clear, but be vague. If one says that a place is 'like a theatre' one might be exact in so far as it may incorporate a place for performance with a place for spectating, but architecturally it might be an amphitheatre, a courtyard, a street, or have a proscenium arch.

There is often a rough and ready relationship between architecture and the words through which it is discussed. Words that are specific in one context may be imprecise and analogical in another. Words such as hearth, theatre, tomb, altar, fortress, throne are not necessarily specific in the architectural forms to which they refer.

Reference for hearth:

Gottfried Semper identified hearth as one of the four fundamental elements of architecture, along with the earthwork, the roof, and the screen wall, in...

Gottfried Semper—The Four Elements of Architecture, 1851.

(With regard to these 'Four Elements', in this book the hearth is categorised as a 'primitive place type', the earthwork and the screen wall both as the 'basic element' of barrier, and the roof as the 'basic element' of roof.)

Hearth—the place of the fire The hearth has had a traditional significance in many cultures, as the heart of the home, or the focus of a community—a source of warmth, for cooking, a point of reference around which life revolves.

Its essential component is the fire itself; but the ways in which the place of the fire is identified can vary greatly. Even a simple outdoor fireplace can be formed of different configurations of basic architectural elements.

In the most rudimentary way a fire identifies its own place, creating a sphere of light and heat, a column of smoke and sparks, and a rough circle of scorched earth. But often its place is marked in other ways too.

A fire can be framed in various ways: the circle of scorched earth may be contained with a circle of stones; the fire might

which protects it from excessive draught and stores some of its
two parallel walls of stone that channel draughts and provide a platform for cooking.

The place of a fire might be identified in more elaborate ways too: maybe provided with a tripod from which a cooking pot is hung, but which also forms an aedicule emphasizing

Hindhu Wedding Borders Png

more sophisticated construction, like a seat or table that lifts it off the ground for conven

ience; or perhaps provided with its own small building.

be taken into account; factors which are related to the purpose of the fire.

If there is a dell, protected from the wind and provided with rocks for seats, and if the purpose of the fire is to provide a cooking-place and a focus for a summer evening of eating and talking, then it is likely to be chosen as a place for the hearth. In doing this the dell becomes a container of the sphere of light and warmth from the fire. It also becomes a room within which friends may cook, eat and talk.

The fire is in the middle of a sort of natural room; its light and warmth seem bounded by the rocks around and the canopies of the trees above.

A fire not only has its own place, but also creates a place where people can occupy its sphere of light and warmth. The extent of this sphere can vary. It might be defined by a tight circle of people around a camp-fire on a cold night; or it might be the extensive circle of visibility of a hill-top beacon seen across miles of countryside.

Through history the architectural role of the hearth as an identifier of place of human occupation has been to do with how its sphere of light and warmth has been defined, contained, or controlled.

In the countryside—the landscape of the primitive family or the present-day camper— a fire makes its own place by its light and warmth. But when one wants to make a fire, a place for it has to be chosen. In doing this various factors may

In an ancient Mycenaean megaron (here shown in plan) the place of the fire was identified by a circle on the ground, by the four columns which held up the roof, and also by the rectangular form of the room itself, which was the place of the king.

In many cultures, particularly in cool and cold regions of the world, domestic architecture has been primarily concerned with enclosing the place of the fire and containing its sphere of light and warmth.

An igloo contains the sphere (or hemisphere when the fire is on the flat surface of the earth) literally—with a dome.

Materials more difficult to shape than ice are not so easy to form into a a teepee limits the hemisphere with a cone.

The primitive round house does similarly.

And an orthogonal room converts the hemisphere into a rectangular volume of space.

The architecture of the fireplace within a dwelling cell is stimulated by the organisation of the space around it into subsidiary places. As a source of warmth and light the fire is a focus for life; but it can also be an obstacle.

In the remains of some early dwellings archaeologists have found hearths located arbitrarily on the floor, with little clear organisational relationship between their position and the space enclosed around them.

Other ancient remains suggest tidier, more formal arrangements. In the megaron of the palace of Mycenae (c.1500 BC; far left) there is a clear relationship between the hearth and the throne, the entrance, and the structure of the room. Sitting here, Agamemnon, the king of ancient Mycenae, was enthroned within his own 'fireplace'.

The consequences of changing the location of the fireplace from a central position to a peripheral one is shown in these two Norwegian traditional timber houses. Their plans are similar, except for the position of the hearth.

In the upper plan the space of the living room is dominated by the central hearth. Subsidiary places—for sitting and eating, for storage—are arranged around this central focus. Moving around the room is a matter of moving around the fire.

In the lower plan the fireplace is situated in the corner of the room, and built as a small cell of stone, non-combustible to protect the timber of the outer walls. The consequence of this change is that, although the fire no longer occupies its central symbolically important position, movement within the room is less constrained. The floor becomes more open for human occupation—a 'dancing floor'.

The decentralised fireplace need not be positioned in the corner of its room. In this small Welsh cottage the hearth takes up almost all of one wall.

A consequence of putting a fireplace on the periphery of a room is that the fabric of the hearth (and of the chimney stack it acquires) contributes to the enclosure and structure of the room; it assumes another architectural role, as wall. In this Welsh example it is the fireplace that divides the cell of the house into two rooms.

In fact the fireplace stack in this example does more than that. Each of its four sides contributes a wall to four places: the two rooms already mentioned, plus an entrance lobby; and a stair to the upper floor, which the stack similarly divides into two.

In another Welsh example (right) the space defining role of the hearth and its massive chimney stack is taken further, with each of its four sides playing a part in the composition of each of four sections of the house— three wings of accommodation plus an entrance porch. Here the

Reference for Welsh rural houses:

Peter Smith—Houses of the Welsh Countryside, 1975.

In this summer cottage, designed and built in 1940, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer used the chimney stack to separate the living area from the dining.

In the Ward Willits House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1901, the central chimney stack plays a pivotal role in the organisation of the accommodation into four wings.

fireplace is once more central to the house, but in a way architecturally different to that of the open hearth in the centre of a room. The central stack generates four spaces like spokes radiating from a hub.

The same architectural idea is taken a step further in the next example, and formalised into a square plan by enclosing the four

Ozobot Color Code Tracks

corner spaces as rooms. These rooms don't have fireplaces; and the circumambulatory route from room to room reintroduces the sort of circulation problems of the hearth in the centre of the floor, though of a different order.

In this house (below), another building by Rudolf Schindler, designed (but never built) when he was an appren tice fellow of Frank Lloyd Wright, the fireplace plays a number of the roles already mentioned. It provides the focus of the house, and is its main structural anchorage. It divides the living room from the work room. It also contributes a wall to the entrance lobby. Its fourth side is however more curious. The fire itself is not set beneath the chimney stack, but on a low platform between the stack and the outer wall. It seems the idea was that one fire could warm both rooms.

In large rooms a fire can only warm a fraction of the space; its sphere of warmth does not extend to the walls. In these circumstances the fire, like an outdoor fire, identifies its own small place within a larger one.

Sometimes this is recognised architecturally too. This is

a plan of two of a number of 'cooperative dwellings' which Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin designed (in about 1902) for 'a Yorkshire town' (right). If they had ever been built they would have formed part of a quadrangle of similar houses, also provided with common rooms for social activities. In the right hand plan you can see that the place around the fire is identified architecturally as an 'ingle-nook'. Notice too how Parker and Unwin architecturally identified other 'sub-places' within the living room: a place to sit by the window; a place at the table to eat; a place to play the piano; a place to study at a desk.

In houses with central heating the hearth is less important as a source of warmth; but it can retain its role as the focus of a particular place, for sitting and reading, or knitting, or talking, or going to sleep. Rather than the hemisphere of warmth having to fill the interior of the cell, it can be used merely to heat, and more importantly provide a vital focus for, a small portion of the space within the cell, leaving the rest of the space to be heated by the background central heating system.

In Le Corbusier's design for a Citrohan House (1920, right) the fireplace is the focus of a small part of the living room, under the 'boudoir' balcony and rather like a simplified ingle-nook. The rest of the house was to be heated by radiators fed from a boiler positioned under the outside steps to the roof, which therefore did not contribute to the conceptual organisation of the living spaces of the house.

Turning Machining

With central heating the hearth in a dwelling is practically redundant, or at least not required to heat the whole space. In these circumstances its role in spatial organisation can change. It can become more like a fire in an internal landscape.

In this design for a house by Hugo Haring (1946, right) the fireplace is almost completely detached from the rest

Medieval Castle Floor Plans

In this house designed by Hugo Häring, which is determinedly not orthogonal, the hearth is separated from the walls in a irregular pattern.

second floor

first floor

of the fabric of the house. From its central position other places, defined by the activities they accommodate, radiate with an irregularity more associated with the natural landscape.

Schindler Rudolf Architect Plan Masse

This plan is of a pair of houses designed by Rudolf Schindler, in 1922, for himself and his wife, and another couple. Set in the reasonably comfortable climate of southern

California, the gardens are treated as outdoor rooms bounded by hedges rather than constructed walls. These outdoor rooms, as well as small parts of the inside spaces, were provided with their own fireplaces. There is not one central chimney stack, but three, positioned between the rooms with roofs over them and those without.

Below is a plan of Falling water, by Frank Lloyd Wright (1935). This house is built above a waterfall. Its floor platforms and flat roofs echo the horizontal strata of the surrounding rocks. The symbolic power of the hearth was important in many of Wright's designs for houses. Though it does not provide all the heating, it is the social focus and heart of the house. Set against, and on, the rock of the waterfall itself, it is as if the hearth has escaped from the containment of the cell and returned to its place in the natural landscape.

Types Names Architect

Bed—a place for sleep, sex, sickness

A bed is not just a piece of furniture; conceptually it is a place. It might be argued that the most fundamental purpose of a house is as a secure place for sleep. The bedroom is the innermost, most private, most protected part of a house. It is a place where one must feel safe enough to sleep, or to be ill, and private enough for sex.

The earliest houses were, and the most primitive houses are, little more than bedrooms, with most other activities associated with dwelling taking place outside.

The development of the house through history includes the invention of the separate bed chamber, and its progressive segregation from other internal living places in the interests of increasing privacy and security.

The bedroom has become a room on the conceptual, and often also the physical, periphery of a house—upstairs or set aside from the living rooms, private to its owner, and often considered less important than the reception rooms.

A bed can be a separate piece of furniture, with its own self-contained form, or it can be fixed into the architecture of its house.

Like a hearth, a bed may be no more than the patch of ground which a sleeping creature occupies.

A bed might be fitted with a roof, supported on its own columns, making it into a bed-aedicule.

Or it might be identified as a defined area by a material which makes it more comfortable—leaves, soft grass, a ground sheet, a foam mattress, a towel, a rug..

A bed may be a platform, lifting the sleeping surface off the ground.

.and fitted with one, two, three or four walls.

.and fitted with one, two, three or four walls.

A bed might be fitted with a roof, supported on its own columns, making it into a bed-aedicule.

A bed may be a platform, lifting the sleeping surface off the ground.

Bed Proscenium Arch

In Powis Castle in Wales there is a state bedroom which is spatially organised like a proscenium arch theatre: the bed is the stage, and is set in an alcove framed by a proscenium arch, outside of which is an area for those seeking an audience.

A bed may be an aedicule, provided with its own roof supported on columns, or walls.

It may even be completely enclosed within in its own 'cupboard'.

A bed may be an aedicule, provided with its own roof supported on columns, or walls.

It may even be completely enclosed within in its own 'cupboard'.

someone nowadays might, on a hot night, sleep on a verandah.

It might even be a complete room in itself—a bed-cell.

Some small old houses had sleeping floors built between the side walls at the end of an open hall, lifting the bed up into the warmer air that collects in the upper levels of any heated space, and freeing more space on the ground floor. This is a long section through a tiny Welsh cottage.

Not only do beds have architecture in themselves, they contribute to the composition of places in larger works of architecture.

A hiking tent, like a primitive bivouac made of branches and leaves, is a bed-roof—a small building.

Some had box-beds— sleeping-cells like cupboards built alongside the hearth. This is the plan of a house the inside of which is illustrated earlier in this book (in the chapter on Architecture as Identification of Place). It also has a bed up

In more complex buildings the bed does not occupy the whole internal space, but it does play its part in the organisation of spaces into places.

According to accounts in the writings of Homer, some three thousand years ago, ancient Greek kings slept in beds in their megarons, and their visitors slept in the porches, as

stairs, formed of a box in the ceiling below which was used to store and smoke joints of meat. Both beds are near the hearth for warmth.
Bed Joints

In this small woodland house which Ralph Erskine built for himself when he went to live in Sweden during the Second World War, the bed could be lifted into the ceiling during the day, to save space.

In some of the houses that Charles Moore has designed, the bed is a platform on top of an aedicule, with the space defined beneath used as a sitting place, with its own hearth.

Even an 'ordinary' bed— a movable piece of furniture— contributes to the architecture of its room. The Victorian architect Robert Kerr, in his book The English Gentleman's House (1865), used four-and-a-half pages discussing the relative positions of windows, doors, hearth, and bed in a sleeping-room, and comparing typical English arrangements, where the bed stood as a freestanding piece of furniture positioned to avoid draughts, with French bedrooms where the bed was sheltered in its own alcove.

Reference for Ralph Erskine:

Peter Collymore—The Architecture of Ralph Erskine, 1985.

Reference for Charles Moore:

Charles Moore and others—The Place of Houses,

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