The Wall as a Volume – A New New Way of Thinking
The wall as a volume. I began exploring the notion in my last post. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. In fact, when I go back through photos I’ve taken, what I see confirms the idea. For example, note how the wall planes/panels below the cornice/crown move in and out in the two photos below.
Sometimes, even in front of the crown.
I know, you’re thinking, “Yes, But those are pictures of The Louvre and Vaux le Vicomte. That’s about 400 year ago.” Let’s segway to our country’s early years. For example, the work of Salem architect/builder Samuel McIntire in The Cotting Smith House. We find similar details and expressions of interior architectural form in the detail over the parlor door and exterior windows.
You counter saying, “Those are examples of Neoclassical and Colonial architecture. That’s all trim and moulding. Today, it’s all about clean lines and simplicity.” In response I say, “Before all that trim and moulding was applied, other decisions were made first. Decisions having to do with the design’s basic building blocks. Shape, form, pattern, proportion. Even what design element(s) were chosen to be emphasized.”
For example, using the two opening images, I’ve noted where the wall plane moves in and out below the cornice/crown. Those decisions were made before any decorative trim was applied.
the Wall as a Volume: a blank Slate
Below, I’ve created a hypothetical room with a fireplace wall with doors (A), an interior wall (B), a window wall (C) and a wall with French doors (D). Using the above premise, let’s strip all the trim and decorative moulding away and start our room ‘s life as a blank slate, upon which one can write. Note: All following elevations will relate back to this key plan.
Our blank slate looks like this. Pretty typical of most rooms today, whether traditional or contemporary. Flat walls and simple trim. (I’ve kept the details simple so as not to distract.)
Manipulating Wall planes within the the volume
What happens when a second layer or sheetrock is strategically added to a wall, creating volume? We now have texture, pattern, etc. We see shadows expressing the form/dimensionality of the wall, as it’s planes move forward and/or recede. For example, we could add a second layer of sheetrock at the doors, windows and French doors, giving them more emphasis.
Here’s what happens at the ceiling. The crown continues, while the wall planes move in and out below.
Conversely, we could choose to emphasize the walls between the doors, windows and French doors.
The fun Begins
Then the fun begins – mixing and matching. For example, in Elevations A and B, let’s pull the doors and framed openings forward. But in Elevations C and D, pull the sheetrock forward, picture framing the windows.
The recessed window alludes to the recessed windows we might see in older homes, such as the Cotting Smith House in Salem.
Or, we could start moving panels in and out as in Elevations A and B below, continuing to tip our hat to the historical past.
For added emphasis around the fire place, one might consider adding additional layering.
The combinations and permutations are many. It’s a matter of manipulating the wall planes in order to achieve a desired effect.
Wall as Volume – The take aways
What can we take away for this exercise?
- Looking at the images of the Louvre and Vaux le Vicomte, who would have imagined under all that ornamentation was an organized layering of planes.
- Manipulating planes of sheetrock in a wall can enhance the overall esthetics of a room, adding texture, pattern and enhancing light and shadow.
- The added layer of sheetrock can bring emphasis to a particular feature in a room.
- The crown/cornice need not repeat the patterning of the wall below. Thus, the ceiling becomes an overall organizing element of the room.
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