A building has to be able to stand so you can’t do entirely without rational thinking. Weights, structures, joints have to work, that’s obvious. But rationalism isn’t an absolute, you have to see rationalism within a larger context. No one is against rationalism, no one denies it, and there is no substitute for it either. But you do have to be aware of the coordinates that connect the rational element with the broader horizon, with life itself. With corruption, destruction, death, birth, whatever. With the rain that suddenly falls that nobody expected.
In the interior of my house I know my way around. And I think you can see the transition from the inner world to the outer world in that way. We move from an unfamiliar place, a street full of strangers, the traffic, enemies, the army maybe, to the inside of our house. In my house I store apples, I have a bed. Children are conceived in beds, that’s a ritual too. It’s quite and shady and cool, that’s all you need.
Then the materials, a marble floor is completely different from a wooden floor. And a tile floor has entirely different properties.If you live in a tent and the sand comes up to the entrance, you cope with it by spreading out a carpet on the sand. So you appropriate the place and keep the desert at bay. I think existential metaphors of this kind should be included in architectural studies, they’ve always been a part of our history.
I work with signs. I design only and exclusively in order to express certain thoughts that are on my mind. Thoughts about form, scale, weight, materials, colors, temperatures, the things we need to build the stage on which we all drank our lives around. Including all the furniture, curtains, lamps, everything.
Years ago, maybe even when I was still a child I already felt the desire to be open to everything around me. The desire to always try to perceive the world with astonishment and great admiration. Without resorting to intellect and knowledge. I know that’s impossible. But you can practice getting rid of intellectual baggage, so that your naked, internally naked to the great ocean out there, the plants, insects, and all the things that bear witness to these terrible natural catastrophes. It makes you feel small and at a loss for words.
I must of taken pictures of over one thousand walls, I want to understand what made me do that. Which means that I have to put it all in some kind of order. There are stacks and stacks of pictures I’ve taken of my journeys all over the world. These are walls in China. This wall is even more beautiful, a single pile of stones. These walls are absolutely beautiful. This is an ancient egyptian wall. And this is an american wall, it’s plastic. This ones American too, built by somebody who believes in modernism.
And these pictures of volcanoes i’m after the same thing as in the pictures of walls.I’m actually photographing textures and material, surfaces. What is a surface actually? What does surface mean? How does it relate to tradition? To the future? What ideas does it stand for? Is surface Euclidian? or non-Euclidian? Surfaces are built, destroyed, and change overtime. What does all that mean? Surfaces are part of human history, but also part of our planet.
There are moments that I want to look at the world with curiosity and feelings of a child. That has nothing to do with being infantile. From a very early age, children, from my experience, have feelings that are intense and serious, and should be taken seriously too. Of course later in school you conform, here are square, that’s where you belong. But what a fantastic moment in life when you look at the world and you’re just simply awestruck. It should be like that, when we first arrived and didn’t understand anything. We should act out our astonishment. The curiosity of being here, of facing the mirrortal and understanding nothing.
This sketchbooks is brimming with ideas. Some of them remained ideas, some of them were implemented. This is a sketch for a house in Zurich but unfortunately it was never built. Some people say that only the building itself is architecture, that would be like restricting sex to the act of making love.
When there is nothing left of colors except shadows, when only shadows follow the trails of the past, shadows that peek our dreams and our utopias, only then does the future begin, which no sooner begun, will already destroy itself again.
This phenomenon that we call nature, that looks to us like a gigantic ball of rock, sand, water, fire, and gas, rotating meaninglessly in the terrible silence of the universe, populated by leaves, trees, and conglomerates of living cells that we call animals. This ball could not care less about our existence. It’s forces; heat, ice, wind, it’s quakes, it’s vulnerabilities. It’s moods are not made with human intellect in mind.
Design is basically life oriented, aesthetics, form, and proportion are not the most important things. But when people talk about design, the first thing they say is the volumes are perfectly distributed, the relationship between light and shadow is balanced, how beautiful. But that’s not the whole story. It’s not that simple. What good is a perfectly designed door if there’s somebody lurking behind it that wants to kill you. What does a door mean at a moment like that?
The more years go by, the more I sense that I am the product of an extremely complicated chemical reaction. That is always in a state of flux. It is composed of memories, longings, anxieties, a greed for life, hopes, aggression, renunciation, of names that crop up, of names that fade, of exhaustive questions that generate new answers.
Excerpts and still from Ettore Sottsass: Sensing Things
NZZ Film 2002, 57:07 DVD Video
Added to Library