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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Servant and Served Spaces

In the 1960's, Myers studied with Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. This experience evidently had a significant impact on his career and his building designs. Traces of Kahn's influence can be seen in the design of the Wolf House, particularly in the layout of the floor plan.

"Kahn encouraged me to explore the organization of mechanical systems." --Barton Myers

The floor plan of the Wolf House is organized in a very distinct way. All the services and utilities are aligned against the east wall, followed by a hallway that unites the two living spaces on the north and south side of the courtyard.

This style of organization can be traced back to Louis Kahn, who also organized floor plans with very distinct arrangements. He is well known for his distinction between servant and served spaces, a concept that is clearly used in the layout of the Wolf House plans.

Myers' organization of servant and served spaces in the Wolf House

This concept considers two spaces. The first space is a servant space, which contains utilities and services such as storage rooms, mechanical rooms, bathrooms, and sometimes kitchens, as well as the circulation spaces such as hallways and stairways.  Firstly, these spaces are called servant spaces when they are distinguished from the rest of the spaces, either by being grouped in a service block (like in the Esherick House) or separated  by some kind of divider. Secondly, they are servant spaces because they "serve" the rest of the spaces (the "served" spaces) eliminating the need for utilities in the latter. This can also be viewed in the terms of the served space being the habitable space while the servant space is the inhabitable space.

Esherick House by Kahn

In the Esherick House, the first servant space is the service block on the left. In the center is another servant space which contains the staircase and serves the other spaces by dividing them. This clear layout of servant and served spaces is used in the Wolf House plans as well.

First Floor

There is a clear distinction of habitable, served spaces on both floors, defined by both the hallway and the courtyard. The serving spaces are also grouped up and arranged against the least desirable wall of the house, the east wall, which faces the neighbour and has no windows.

Second Floor

In the Wolf House, Myers is able to use the servant space not only to efficiently organize the utilities of the house, but also to direct the circulation and the layout of the rest of the home. The servant space serves the habitable space in many ways. The idea of utilities directing circulation is further applied to the ducts and lighting, which follow the circulation of the home.

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