Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mumford on loft living

" . . . in throwing open our buildings to the daylight and the outdoors, we forget, at our peril, the co-ordinate need for quiet, for darkness, for inner privacy, for retreat."
Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (1938)

Remarking on the influence of the medieval cloister on the origin of the city in Western civilization, pioneer urban theorist Mumford hit upon exactly the problem I have with contemporary loft design—which is to say, contemporary apartment design: the lack of privacy inherent in these plans.

Concerto in downtown Los Angeles

"Without formal opportunities for isolation and contemplation, opportunities that require enclosed space, free from the prying eyes and extraneous stimuli and secular interruptions, even the most externalized and extraverted [sic] life must eventually suffer. The home without such such cells is but a barracks: the city that does not possess them is but a camp."

Study the following loft floor plans, from three adaptive re-use buildings in Los Angeles reconfigured as living quarters. These spaces permit no opportunity for privacy, with living, dining, cooking, and sleeping areas being contiguous. No partitions, except the ones defining the bathrooms.

Broadway Lofts, Hollywood

Rowan Lofts, downtown L.A.Biscuit Company Lofts, downtown L.A.

Mumford has the last word:

"Today the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet."


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