Servant Served and Solar
One of my favorite ways to analyze the spatial organization of a building is by using Louis Kahn’s “Servant Served” concept. Another favorite way is to rank spaces by their benefit from solar access. It turns out these two methods have an affinity for each other. Servant Served and passive solar design often like the same architecture.
A quick recap of servant served. Servant served considers the relationship between two rooms, spaces, or areas in a building. Consider the kitchen and dining room of a house. The kitchen serves the dining room. The kitchen is the servant space, and the dining room is the served space. In traditional residential design, say from Frank Lloyd Wright, the servant served relationship of the kitchen and dining room is obvious. In contemporary residences, the relationship may not exist at all. The kitchen and dining room may be the same room. In laboratory design, servant served relationships are quite strong. Ventilation-intensive labs are served by very large air handling rooms or areas.
In passive solar design, we want to give solar access to the more public spaces in a building. In a residence, this might be the living and dining rooms. These rooms benefit from windows. They want to be on the south, well-fenestrated side of the building. Infrequently used rooms such as closets, bathrooms, and utility rooms do not benefit from windows. They can be relegated to the windowless north side of a residence.
Looking at the list of rooms on the south side of a passive solar design, we see they are served spaces. The list of rooms on the north side are servant spaces. Passive solar design is in many ways a special case of servant served design.
A recent residential project of ours is a good example of this. The owners were interested in a passive solar, energy efficient home. They wanted their main ground floor space to be a great room, what I commonly refer to as KLD for kitchen, living, dining. Other ground floor rooms included a guest room, bathroom and laundry, mud room and pantry space. A stair would lead to the second floor. The passive solar nature of both floors is obvious, as is the servant served relationships of the rooms.
This type of spatial organization, where public or served spaces form one bar and private or servant spaces form another parallel bar is an elegant way to arrange functions in both simple and complex buildings. It is virtually unbeatable for projects where solar access is a consideration.