|When all the senses are at ease. . .|
(Image courtesy bookbub.com)
But exactly how do we define "comfort"? Can we? Or do architects ignore it precisely because it’s too subjective? Clearly, comfort is founded on a few basic needs which must be satisfied before all others: We must be warm, dry, secure from danger, and adequately fed to feel any higher degree of comfort. But there’s more to it than that.
|A contemporary Modernist interior:|
Aesthetically stunning, but cozy, it isn't.
(Image courtesy of Web Urbanist)
Of course, psychologists would have a field day here drawing analogies to the womb. But the fact remains that the sentient among us are not in the womb—we’re out here being battered in an often-harsh world, and as humans we quite naturally long to make our lives as comfortable as possible.
|The Barcelona chair, designed by Mies van der Rohe|
and beloved by architect Philip Johson, who had them
prominently displayed in his famed "Glass Box" house.
The Modernists, who were obsessed with the look of things to the exclusion of most everything else, never seemed to give comfort any thought whatever. A few moments in any textbook-Modernist building makes this abundantly clear, not to mention sitting in a Modernist-designed chair. But the problem didn’t die with Modernism. Even today, the architectural works most adored by critics are often just tolerated good-naturedly by the people who have to occupy them.
|Philip Johnson: Ow, my butt.|
By the way, I take back what I said about “comfort” not being mentioned in Modernist writing: The late Philip Johnson once defended Barcelona chairs, those slippery Modernist slabs of leather, by asserting: “I think comfort is a function of whether a chair is good-looking or not.”
Somehow I doubt that his butt would've agreed.