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An important development during the last 20 years is the juxtaposition in one building of incompatible forms that cannot have evolved from one another, and are juxtaposed in order to insist on their unrelatedness. The result may fairly be called a hybrid, and the most disquieting examples appear to have been designed by opposing teams, recruited from sculptors and technicians, in a contest neither side wins. Hybrids of a sort can also be produced by contrasts within the same formal category. Alvar Aalto's Baker Dormitory for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is an early and celebrated example. Its elevation facing the Charles River is a sinuous curve, ostensibly to give each room a view up or down the river.
The curve stresses continuity and implies that the rear elevation must be simply the back of the same curve. But at the back the building is unexpectedly staccato, its angled planes tied together by a continuous stair climbing up the walls. The result is an unexpectedly hybrid configuration that challenges but does not repudiate, the idea of unity.
Aalto's prewar architecture was only lightly tied to the orthodox International Style. It was admired rather more for its embodiment of regional (Scandinavian) qualities. In the Baker Dormitory, as in some buildings of the fifties, Aalto managed to synthesize a kind of one-man vernacular. Its flexibility is deceptive and less easily imitated than might be supposed, but some of Aalto's ideas have helped to sustain the legitimacy of a regional architecture disaffiliated from the International Style on principle.
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