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Monday, October 01, 2001

Wall House 2

Wall House 2 in Groningen, Netherlands by John Hejduk, 2001

As part of John Hejduk's Wall House Studies of the early 1970's, Wall House 2, (aka the Bye House after the client's name) became part of the architect/educator's large theoretical, though unbuilt, oeuvre. Originally sited in the client's home-state of Connecticut, the house was completed last month, a year after Hejduk's passing, not in the United States but in Groningen, Netherlands, after the city undertook building the influential design on the outskirts of the city. Though not identical to the original site and without a client, the house's completion gives us a chance to assess the viability of Hejduk's drawings as built architecture.


The Wall House Studies examined the wall as an architectural element both as barrier and connector, a plane that dictates the architecture of the houses and the lives of the inhabitants. In Wall House 2 the rooms, cantilevered from the wall, are first reached by a long, raised corridor, perpendicular to the wall. Once inside a room, the only course of movement to another room on another level is to walk back through the wall and up or down a spiral stair. Here Hejduk experiments with space and time, shunning contemporary (since the Modern Movement) house design which places an emphasis on spaces flowing together without definitive boundaries.


The wall, 1.5 meters thick, is perceived by the occupant through a reveal between the wall and the cantilevered elements, whereby the walls' importance is reinforced. As the house's inhabitant moves from one room to another, via the wall and adjacent stair, the wall becomes a marker of time. In the daily routine that is most people's lives the wall marks these events in time: waking up, leaving the house for work, going to sleep, etc. And as the house is to be occupied by a permanent owner in the coming months the house will have its true test.


Although intended for an open site in Connecticut, the house could not exist under similar circumstances in the dense cities of the Netherlands. The largest drawback to this situation is the loss of the house as a three-dimensional object, as adjacent buildings crowd the house's property lines. Fortunately views from the cantilevered elements over a lakefront exist, reemphasizing the role of the wall in the design. It is a testament to Hejduk as an architect, and not solely an educator or visionary, that the faults of the built house are specific to the architectural problems of site and client.

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