In 1988 Oswald Mathias Ungers completed the Glashütte Villa at Eifel in western Germany. The house, inspired by Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, is a rectangular box with each facade symmetrical. The rooms inside are laid out around a central hall and staircase. The Villa has been stripped of all ornament, and yet it reads like a classical building.
Ungers House II Technical Information
- Architects: Oswald Mathias Ungers
- Location: Utscheid, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
- Topics: Palladianism, Villa
- Area: 500 m2
- Project Year: 1986-88
- Photographs: © Stefan Mueller1
The house is a living space, laboratory, test and representation of the
idea of the world
– Oswald Mathias Ungers2
Ungers House II Photographs
Ungers believed that “the house is a living space, laboratory, test, and representation of the idea of the world.” Ungers’ imaginary world, subordinated to the strict rules of geometry and enclosed in a plain white box, became evidence of the presence of modern architecture seeking order and basis within the strict principles of composition.
Architects searching for a nonfigurative architecture of pure form, determined by its means of mass, geometry, and proportion. The extreme synthesis and the reduction of elements show the search for the essence of architecture, which Ungers identified in the strict composition rules.
A strict geometrical design grid characterizes Ungers’ buildings. In the Glashütte Villa, Ungers used a 17 x 17 meters squared plan located in the center of a park that is also subject to the 17-meter grid. Two existing lakes were incorporated into the design and slightly modified. The Villa does not have a paved path that leads to the building through the forest.
As an architectural theorist and university lecturer, Ungers developed what his critics called “quadratism,” his admirer’s “German rationalism.” In doing so, he resorted to the teaching of Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, who had published in 1820 his pattern books with geometric prototypes for “any building.”
In his formal language, Ungers explicitly referred to elementary architectural design elements independent of contemporary tastes. His historical role models in the history of architecture come mainly from Roman-Greek antiquity. His work was, therefore, occasionally criticized as formalistic. In connection with his construction on the Frankfurt Messe grounds, there was often talk of a “new clarity.” Like hardly any other architect, Ungers has remained true to his once chosen formal language for decades. He was one of the leading theoreticians of Second Modernism.
Well-known students of Ungers include Max Dudler, Jo. Franzke, Hans Kollhoff, Rem Koolhaas, Christoph Mäckler, Jürgen Sawade and Eun Young Yi.
I wanted to see how far architecture can be abstract. […] Therefore, there is a “house without qualities” no ornaments, no details, nor bottom or top. […] Everything has been subtracted to the absolute core of abstraction. More cannot be done
Ungers House II Plans
Ungers House II Image Gallery
About O. M. Ungers
O. M. Ungers (1926–2007) was an architect who, unlike many of his contemporaries, never saw the need to disconnect himself from the past. He referred, however, to the history of ideas, not to the history of styles. Looking for the basis of his thoughts and creativity in classical sources, he did not repeat certain forms, figures, and rigid functional schemes. Still, he focused on the issue of order within architecture.
He believed architecture’s opening scene is emptiness, and architectural intervention that involves structuring this most radical space needs an order. However, the order requires rules. In the art of establishing rules – which in his opinion, architecture precisely is – composition is essential. Ungers understood composition based on classical rules of symmetry, proportion, axial arrangement, and contrasts. He treated geometry as a force to arrange reality.
- Photos: © Stefan Mueller, Heidrun Hertel. Source: H. Klotz, ed., “O.M. Ungers: 1951–1984, Bauten und Projekte”, Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1985; “O. M. Ungers. Cosmos of Architecture“, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006.
- O. M. Ungers [in:] M. Kieren, Der Architect als Bauherr, Ungers’ eigene Häuser als Ergebnis einer
monologischen Kunst, [in:] O. M. Ungers, Kosmos der Architektur, A. Lepik (ed.), Hatje Cantz,
Berlin 2007, p. 61.