The idea of the room was also helped by the landscaping because it’s on a slope. And so the main room is a floor below where you come in. And what I did was instead of a double height hall I have a pentagon instead of a square. That is, it’s a square room but one wall is tipped away. Then secondly, I had two axes, that is, I have the orthogonal axis when you enter the room that fits the landscape, along the landscape, straight. But I also then took the roof and twisted it 45° so that it angles, the pitch of the roof angles at the opposite angle. The walls in between the angles of the 45° and the straight walls in between, I put on either one of those grids.
So it gives you a very playful set of grids at 45°, at 90° and what’s 90° and 45 °, 135 ° to play with in the room itself. By putting a glass roof on it, I deny the fact of an interior room entirely. And that, of course, is marvelous, because you have the moon, well, the moon sometimes. And some of these things didn’t work out quite the way I planned them. The moon was one of them. But the roof then becomes a substitute for the heavens. And all these open air walls placed around.
Then my instincts said that I wanted an interesting processional and I always come back to that word. What experience do I get in this big room? How can I make myself have an experience except that blank one of coming into a nice lighted room, a central court with five cusp rooms facing them on the five facets of the room?
Each one of the five facets I put rooms on so that we could have a single sculpture in those five or a double in them. But the main room was a multi-level effect so I could have those cusps at five different levels if I wanted to.I was going to add a new dimension to the usual international style system of the two, and Mies van der Rohe especially, the two planes, with the movable walls making the excitement. I said wouldn’t it be nice to have a third dimension, that is, a way of going up and down and getting different feelings in each one of these five? So by doing that, I picked – let’s see, I’ve got one level, two levels, three levels, well, I don’t know, four or five maybe, up to five, in all of which you can see into the main room. So you get different views and different feelings of the main room from each of the cusps. You get a view up, you get a view down, you get a view across that varies every time. And so the variety of your experience changes as you go down the steps – the steps, of course, are taken from a Greek village, the Greek whitewashed stairs in a Greek village. It gives you the same change of pace and change of the way you look at a village by going down.
That came from my favorite image, which is that of a dog finding the centroid of a room. How do they do it? They have a sense of smell and they know where the comfort is and they aim unerringly for the proper place. If you come into my room, it was caused by the path of a dog sniffing. You go around and you go around each side of the five and you find yourself finally in the main room. Keep trying to follow, following the same edge of the circle around, you’d end up perfectly naturally in the middle like any spiral. So then that becomes the place from which – it also become a place toward which – all the viewing from the different balconies works.
And so for the first time in my architectural experience I got a room with multi-level feelings of change that you can’t describe, which is the essence of all good architecture. How are you going to describe the inside of the Chartres Cathedral, for God’s sake? Or any great Baroque? It’s too intricate to figure out. I’ve almost got it here. I didn’t do it with fancy materials, which is my usual impulse when I’m stuck – let’s use marble; it’s bound to be beautiful – not necessarily. So I said let’s use the most common painted brick that there is. Brick is wonderful because it has a well known scale. You know exactly how big a brick is. Those are the references, for instance, in painting, when in collage in early Cubism they would take a playing card – all of a sudden it brings you, with a shock, back to the actual scale of what you’re looking for. Well, in the same sense, in architecture, the brick will always show you the size of the space you’re in and bring you back to reality or to force reality. So by using brick and plain surfaces, I could modulate your views to the maximum of interest.”
Interview conducted on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation by Eleanor Devens, Franz Schultz, Jeffrey Shaw, and Frank Sanchis.