Ovoid and biomorphic, with floors that slope into walls and walls that slope into ceilings, the sculpted concrete form of the Endless House is designed, the architect said, to be "endless like the human body— there is no beginning and no end." In this decades–long project to invent a new kind of architectural space, Kiesler sought to combine sculpture, architecture, the environment, and poetry. To describe this multitasking space, plan drawings of cocoonlike interiors are layered with acetate sheets. Superimposition allows the proposal to retain its flexibility: transparent sheets note possible architectural programs in red ("group living" and "individual recreation"), and lines indicating new vectors of space can be added to or subtracted from the design.
Gallery label from Cut 'n' Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City, July 10–December 1, 2013.
Frederick Kiesler, architect, set designer, artist, and philosopher, began to explore a new kind of "endless" architectural space in 1922 and continued to develop this theme throughout the rest of his life. The biomorphic Endless House was Kiesler's vision of a free-form, continuous, human-centered living space synthesizing painting, sculpture, architecture, and the environment. Designed in direct opposition to the static, rectilinear rooms of the sterile glass boxes that were beginning to dominate modern architecture in the 1950s, his house was to be "endless like the human body—there is no beginning and no end.” For him this womblike form was akin to the female body; others have seen an egg or even the human heart, with the rooms as aortic chambers.
Kiesler's house was to provide for a healthy, comfortable, spiritually nourished existence and to promote an "exuberant" life. Raised on columns and accessible by stairs or a large curving ramp, the visionary house is formed out of reinforced concrete, a medium permitting curving walls with irregular openings for windows and skylights. Because Kiesler felt sharp angles were artificial, the floors slope up at the edges of the rooms to form the walls, then slope inward again to create the ceiling, in a continuous line echoing the rounded shape of the house itself. The interior was to be a mélange of materials, with floors of pebbles, sand, wood, grass, and tile. Bathing pools were to replace traditional bathtubs, and the interior was to be covered in frescoes and sculpture. While the house was to have a unified interior, the plan was versatile; flexible dividers would accommodate “every possible movement its inhabitants could make within it.”
The plan consists of two parts; a floor plan in ink on paper and an acetate overlay with features of the house indicated in red. Kiesler used this technique for nine of the twenty-three drawings of the Endless House in the collection. The overlay enabled him to maintain an interest in the amorphous shape of the house while at the same time instilling it with an architectural program.
Kiesler's house was also to incorporate a lighting system designed to serve more practical needs. A study for the Color Clock, both eye- and beetlelike, illustrates a crystalline structure of mirrors and lenses set into the roof. As the sun's rays passed through this structure, their color would gradually change, so that the house's occupant would be able to tell the time by the hue of the light. Thus the inside of the house would become the interior of an everchanging sculpture, and time would appear as a continuous flow instead of a mechanical series of segments.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 108.