V. Proposals

Sabrina Schmidt-Wetekam

Mass and Memory: Re-imagining the Walls of the Schindler House

The man of the future does not try to escape the elements. He will rule them. His home is no more a timid retreat: The earth has become his home.
—R.M. Schindler, Manifesto (Vienna, 1912)

Following his return from Yosemite, inspired by the idyllic scenery and the simplicity of camp living, Schindler finalized the plans for his home. Schindler’s basic idea of shelter combined with his concept of space architecture is manifested in the design. The concrete walls were constructed by using the slab-tilt method. This method reinforces Schindler’s notion of the dwelling, wherein a light and open structure is built against a fortified wall.

The walls themselves were cast on top of the concrete slab using soft soap, craft paper, and burlap to prevent adhesion to the floor slab. Once they were cured, they were then tilted upright using a tripod with a block and tackle.

This proposal seeks to uncover this method of construction by re-contextualizing the mass of the walls, not as vertical structures supporting a building, but as a horizontal monument. The floor is the pedestal for this monument and is the last remaining artifact of the original form work.


Additionally, the new “wall” will be divided horizontally into equal volumetric pieces. As Schindler was restricted in the size of each wall piece—to keep the weight manageable for two men to lift with the tripod—this new “wall” must also be divided for transport and installation. In order to preserve the original floor, each portion of this mass will have a strip of burlap underneath it. The gaps left between the pieces articulate the original wall in a new way, by creating multiple senses of scale.

The twentieth century is the first to abandon construction as a source for architectural form through the introduction of reinforced concrete.
—R.M. Schindler, Manifesto

“A reinforced concrete floor is placed on the ground. Low wooden frames and reinforcing rods are placed on it. The concrete wall units are poured between them in a horizontal position and finished on the top surface. After the concrete has set they are tilted up by means of a tripod with a block and tackle, and easily handled by two men. Adhesion between wall and floor is prevented by a coating of soft soap on the floor before pouring the wall slabs.”

Sabrina Schmidt-Wetekam is a Los Angeles-based architect.

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