Something Completely New
The program consisted in the creation of a house in an imaginary island, drawn by Marcio Kogan where the client to be the boy from the movie “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman (1966).
In the prologue of the movie the boy wakes up in a hospital next to several corpses. The first comparison that came to my mind after watching the film was with a sculpture named “the Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino in Naples. In these two scenes, there is an atmosphere of death represented by the veil and by the bed that looks like an altar and also like a coffin. However, unlike Christ, the child is alive and struggling for his life, moving himself under the sheet. There is a strong contrast between the mortuary and cold atmosphere of the scene and the vitality and the hope of the child.
So, I asked myself how to express this dualism between life and death with Architecture. The name of my project is “Caronte”, a demon that is present in Dante’s Divina Commedia, who carries the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divide the world of the living from the world of the dead. For every human being the “house” is a place for life and I decided to put it in the most arid and deadly place of the island: the volcano. So Life and Death in this project are together. The house is continuously threatened to be destroyed, but remains a “stage for life”. The human condition is a fragile condition that is always in balance and this dangerous situation will be represented by the central hole that is the heart of the project that allows us to see the centre of the volcano. All the house develops around it and this element becomes a unique opportunity for introspection. The grown child will be a spectator of his own fragility of being human. The house is a suspended bridge over the volcano and it brings us in a place of death, just like Caronte. However, this home is also a message of hope and a declaration of life just like the child who struggles for life in a dead environment. In fact, in this dangerous bridge-house it will be possible to see the sky trough the big central skylight. This contrast between Hell and Paradise will allow the child to grow up, to remember his condition and to live in a world often terrible and full of drama, but also full of beauty. I decided to use Dante’s Divina Commedia painted by Gustave Dorè as a metaphor in order to describe this project.
How did the short length of the workshop effect the way you approached the project?
Porto Academy lasts a week. In seven days, it is not possible to develop a complete project. The only thing you can do is to make proposals and start developing a story, the basis of a project.
If you could explore the project further what would you do?
As you can see, the project has an abstract character with realistic features. I would be very curious to find out how to create this house in the real world.
Is it possible to build two monolithic concrete beams like these?
How big do they have to be in order to allow for the construction of a suspended house on a volcano?
Is it possible to live in such an inhospitable and arid place?
Could Caronte really exist?
Did you think of a potentially different format compared to that of the drawings?Did you think of looking at the divine comedy as a source of inspiration?
I believe that the Divine Comedy is one of the most important works created by mankind. My great passion for Dante Alighieri is visible in this little project I created. This journey from life to death wants to be a tribute to his great masterpiece. In my opinion, one of the most important points of a project is the element of narrative: the project has to be the product of a story and have to tell a story. So I decided to use Gustave Dorè’s pieces of art as a basis for describing my project. Nobody represented Divine Comedy better than him and his drawings were fundamental to allow me to create this short story about Bergman’s film and also about myself.
What defined the choice of the monochromatic palette?
The choice of the monochromatic palette was very natural: Bergman’s movie was in black and white and also Gustave Dorè’s pieces of art.
Sometimes colours distract and we risk losing the meaning and the essence of things.
How important is the element of narrative within the architectural project?
As I said before, every project tells us a story. A project describes its author; it’s a part of his/her mind that becomes real. Art and Architecture are born from the need to tell something, to make ideas real.
Narrative is maybe the most important part of a project; a building that doesn’t tell us anything and that is created only with rationality doesn’t have soul.
How has your previous work approached this workshop?
I started my series of architectural collage “Genius Disloci” almost for fun, thinking about interesting combinations, reflecting on the shapes, on the atmospheres and on the “spirit” of the buildings I love.
I have found in this technique a great way to reflect and to understand. This is the first time that I use this technique for one of my projects. Two masters of the Past helped me to make real my own ideas.
The elements of the past and of the present are combined together and mixed, creating something completely new.
Valerio Recchioni is a student of the Department of Architecture at the University of Ferrara. His interests and studies are focused on Architecture design and he’s passionate about freestyle drawing as well as other types of artistic styles. He’s developing his thesis on the adaptive reuse and transformation of “Istituto Storico e di Cultura dell’Arma del Genio” into a museum, in Rome. Valerio is currently working at RCR Arquitectes as an intern.