RM Schindler, Ollie Blocks & the 5 other Oliver Houses, part 5 of 5

Variations on a theme, a system of design,


playing with blocks

As I looked at the front of the Oliver House, I noticed that there are 3 different styles of architecture. They are tied together by the ribbon window and they have solid masses at each end. From left to right, from thickest to flattest, they are (Figure 1)

Recessed   Window recessed into a thick wall

Overhang   Flat wall with an overhang above the window

Flat            Window on a flat wall, no overhang

These different styles, combined with Schindler’s use of a 4′ module, suggested  4′ wide building blocks that could be used to construct a model of the Oliver House. In addition to the standard blocks, we would need solid blocks (no windows) and transition blocks where one style changes to another at a corner. I named these Oliver House blocks “Ollie Blocks” (Figure 2).

It then occurred to me that you could change the order of the styles to create other Oliver Houses. I developed three rules for assembling the Ollie blocks.

Roughly follow the original plan

Use each style once

Start and stop on a solid block

The 3 styles of blocks, each used once, give a total of 6 possible Olivers (3x2x1=6). They are, from left to right

Recessed Overhang Flat   the original

Flat Overhang Recessed
Overhang Flat Recessed
Recessed Flat Overhang
Flat Recessed Overhang

Overhang Recessed Flat

Figure 3 shows the ROF and FOR versions as assembled Ollie Blocks.

Figures 4, 5 and 6 show the six versions without the block lines.

Some final thoughts

Not all of Schindler’s Plaster Skin buildings can be analyzed this way. It doesn’t seem to work on the long floating plane houses like the McAlmon Apartment. Rather than repeated blocks, they seem to be made from a few pieces that are repeated, stretched and bent. The Buck House Apartment, discussed in article 4 of this series, does look like a Plaster Block building. The Buck main house, however, is more of a Plaster Plane building.

The stretching and bending of planes in the Plaster Plane Houses seems to be perfectly suited to 3D modeling software, where pushing and pulling forms is easy.

This was a really fun process. Analyzing the house, coming up with rules and making the blocks was very challenging and a great way to study a building. The best part was assembling the 5 Other Olivers, I had no idea what to expect or how they would turn out.

This reminds me of how jazz musicians improvise on a theme. The 5 Others are variations on the original.

It’s fun to play with blocks.

What do you think? Of the Five, I think I like ORF best. Add a comment below and let me know which one is your favorite.

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