Space within : Frederick Kiesler and the architecture of an idea

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2014-05
Authors
McGuire, Laura
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From 1922-1942, the Austrian-American architect and designer Frederick Jacob Kiesler (1890-1965) designed architecture based on the idea that it must complement the physiological and psychological processes of the human body. In order to reconcile the technological changes wrought by industrialized production with the need for structures that promoted human health, he developed an inspired model for interactive design. His formative experiences in Europe working with De Stijl and the G-Group, along with his exposure to Central European examples of architecture, art, and science set the agenda for his later works. Yet he never stopped experimenting with new concepts that would bolster his essential philosophy of body-generated space. After he immigrated to the United States in 1926, Kiesler’s pursued his ideas about physiological and psychological architecture within a new cultural milieu and a network of encouraging personal connections. He forged relationships with a sympathetic community of émigré industrial designers and architects who promoted his efforts to integrate modern technology with new design idioms. During his first fifteen years in New York City, Kiesler looked to contemporary science as a way to advance a model of flexible architectural design. He also worked at the cutting edge of industrial design research and was an early protagonist of human factors engineering methods. His body-centered methodology stood in opposition to aesthetic and reductive approaches toward modernism and functionalism. Instead of designing according to a priori determinations of what was functional and what was not, Kiesler’s functionalism was based on an iterative design practice that would reveal progressively more useful and universally applicable forms.

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