I saw a restored wagon-lit (train carriage with sleeping accommodation) in Vienna’s Science and Technology Museum. From the inside, it can be regarded as a noble way of travelling, because the decoration is luxurious, the compartments are spacious, and there are bathroom facilities for private use. I began to imagine how interesting long-distance train travel was.
In addition to the part-time work during the summer vacation in college, my friends and I love to travel by train. In order to save travel expenses, we often take night trains to distant cities, because we can cover the distance while we sleep. We do not waste time and also save hotel costs – the best of both worlds.
I remember my first night train ride from Vienna to Venice. Our bed was 90 degrees from the direction of the train. Before we went to sleep, the train was travelling from right to left. But it felt like the car was being pushed back and forth during our sleep, and when we got up in the morning, the train was going from left to right! We thought it was really funny, like magic. We wondered if we could arrive in Venice like this. It’s a novelty to take a sleeping carriage on a train, but the penalty is a bad night’s sleep.
The sleeping carriages on modern trains are divided into different compartments, ranging from three-person rooms to one-person rooms. The design of the sleeping carriage 25 years ago is much different from that of 2020, and many details have been improved. In the carriage, I love to observe how they meet the needs of all passengers in the smallest space. Small but complete!
In architectural design, means of transport will give architects different inspirations. Ships, planes, trains, and cars can all be the subject of architectural design. In the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart there is a multi-dwelling unit designed by Le Corbusier. Advocating mechanical aesthetics, he participated in the modern architecture exhibition Die Wohnung (apartment) in the summer of 1927. The exhibition host was Mies van der Rohe. This exhibition is not a talk on paper, but a real space that allows people to visit so-called modern buildings. All the exhibition’s architects had to abandon the previously exaggerated design methods and interpret modern buildings in a simple and affordable way. This has a great impact on future generations.
Le Corbusier was inspired by the sleeping cars on the railway. To him, home was like a machine for living (Wohnmaschine). When you get up in the morning, you can put the bed away in the storage area on the lower floor to make the space empty. Take out the bed at night. For me, the first time I saw this way of life was a Japanese room, because Japanese living space is very small, and the space must be used efficiently.
In addition, the colours he chose for indoors and outdoors were not monotonous – not only white, but also light grey, mouse grey, dark grey, English red, chocolate, cold and light blue, or even light green – it’s always surprising. The colours he chose became the Le Corbusier colour palette used in interior design.
Taken together, his modern design has five characteristics:
1. The house on pillars: since the pillars are made of steel and concrete, the house can be lifted off the ground and float in the air. The garden can also extend below the house.
2. Sky garden: building houses reduces the area of natural environment. Building a sky garden on the roof can partly make up for the space lost.
3. Open space: because the columns support the weight of all ceilings, there is no need for traditional load-bearing walls. Therefore, there is greater flexibility in the layout.
4. Long windows: horizontal strip-shaped windows are more efficient for lighting than vertical windows. Because the use of columns can increase the area of the window, the indoor lighting is improved.
5. Free-style external wall design: the external wall is located outside the load-bearing columns, so the design of the external wall is not limited by the traditional need to bear weight, and can be designed with more freedom.
When the visitors walked indoors, they found that the corridors/aisles were very narrow, much like those in a train (70 cm wide). The stairwell is also very narrow – maybe the people at that time were very thin? This design caused many people to shake their heads. Not everyone can accept sleeping in a home like a wagon-lit every day. So, mixed reviews. However, this apartment survived not only the Nazi period, but also the Second World War and the post-war period. In the 1950s, the original apartment was to be demolished. Fortunately, those who were interested were fighting for it. In 1958, the entire residential estate’s buildings were brought under state protection.
In 2006, after undergoing three years of major renovations, Le Corbusier’s multi-dwelling unit became the Weissenhof Museum. In the summer of 2016, the building was included in the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO. From a sample house on display to a world heritage site, a truly dramatic fate!
The only constant is human enthusiasm for trains and the need for sustainability. As long as air travel is not sustainable, the status of trains will not be replaced. I have always felt that train fans are cute when they take pictures of trains, and sometimes they show their embarrassment when we look at each other. Although I can’t sleep well on the train, I still quietly plan my next railway journey in the noble setting of a wagon-lit.
在建築設計中交通工具都會給建築師不同的靈感。輪船，飛機，火車，汽車都可以成為建築設計的主題。在斯圖加特的白屋聚落中有一個由勒·科比意(Le Corbusier)設計的雙棟房子。崇尚機械美學的他參加了1927年夏天時的現代建築展 Die Wohnung (公寓），展覽主持人是密斯·凡德羅 (Mies van der Rohe)。這展覽不是紙上談兵，而是真的空間可以讓人進入參觀所謂的現代建築。所有的建築師們要摒棄以前多餘誇張的設計方式，用簡單又可負擔的建築方式詮釋現代建築。這對後人影響甚大。