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œChapter11œ
Elevation view of eastern side of the south wing
(porch on the 1st floor and salon on the 2nd floor)
"Inverted beam" and "suspended floor," the construction structures that have a decisive influence on the first impression
Appearance of the eastern side of the south wing
(porch on the 1st floor and salon on the 2nd floor)

What structure is hidden in the symmetric design?

As already mentioned in the previous articles, YODOKO Guest House has skillfully structured spaces created by taking advantage of the splendid view from the hill near the mountains. One of the typical spaces is the porch on the first floor, being the built in the open porch style. The ceiling surface has a flat face and allows visitors to see the beautiful scenery, giving them a moving first impression. In contrast to the first floor, the outside of the salon on the second floor directly above the porch is of an uneven complicated design. However, they are closely connected in terms of structure.


The protrusion of beams are cleared by adopting reverse beams

Look at the ceiling of the porch on the first floor. This ceiling is part of the floor of the salon on the second floor. This is one sheet of reinforced concrete, with its thickness as thin as 12-16 cm. Usually, in order to prevent this slab from bending and to maintain the strength of the floor, beams* are installed around the circumference of the ceiling and protrude from the ceiling, but the surface is flat. This is the result of reversing the ordinary idea. Beams are installed not under the ceiling surface (porch side on the first floor) but on the floor surface (salon side on the second floor). And to prevent the protrusion from being visible on the second floor, built-in couches are installed on those beams. (See Fig. 2.) This method has been further improved, and in present residential construction, beams will not protrude into the room either. This method was adopted as the "Inverted beam method."


*Beam: A horizontal brace that supports a building. The most important member of an architecture, as well as the pillar.

Moreover, sizes of beams and pillars are controlled with the "suspended floor"

How is the slab with inverted beams installed supported? Although it seems that the four pillars just stand in the four corners, actually it is a "suspended floor." The reinforcing steel that pierces through the beams is folded in a slanted direction and is fixed to these pillars in a suspended form, like a hammock, to support the slab. (See Fig. 2.) This is probably a structural feature that had been made to make the beams and pillars as small as possible.


Realization of sophisticated space that Wright intended

As previously described, by using "inverted beam" and "suspended floor" structures at the same time, the protrusion of beams and pillars that obstruct the space structure in the porch on the first floor and the salon on the second floor are reduced as mush as possible. The inextricably linked artful structure and brilliant design is an interesting point in Wright's architecture.


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Couch and side walls of the salon
"Is Wright a master of camouflage?"
You might image a magic house when you hear "inverted beam" and "suspended floor." In fact, these mechanisms, i.e., structures, were found during the restoration work in 1985-1988. The reason why Wright included couches and complicated appearances in his design drawing may have been as camouflage to hide his unique structural tricks, though it was just like Wright, who was very particular about design, to create such complexity.
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*This article was written by Yodogawa Steel Works, under the supervision of Mr. Fumitaka Hirata of the Building Research Institute Foundation, which administrates the restoration and preservation of YODOKO Guest House.

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