Archipelago: The Housing Archetype

Project

Archipelago by A Series of Rooms (Bonell+Dòriga) is an exploration into the imaginary of the housing archetype – as portrayed in art, media and human studies.

In a ghost town built in Sweden, houses are all façade, and the domestic space is defined by its absence. [Gregor Sailer, Carson City VI/Vårgårda, Sweden, 2016]
In a ghost town built in Sweden, houses are all façade, and the domestic space is defined by its absence. [Gregor Sailer, Carson City VI/Vårgårda, Sweden, 2016]
Space is turned into a massive sculpture, its façades are removed. The rooms are visible, existent in themselves, but impossible to inhabit. [Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993]
Space is turned into a massive sculpture, its façades are removed. The rooms are visible, existent in themselves, but impossible to inhabit. [Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993]
A kid builds a toy house with sticks, defining space with edges instead of solid surfaces. [Peter Stackpole, Boy with Toys in LIFE magazine, 1956]
A kid builds a toy house with sticks, defining space with edges instead of solid surfaces. [Peter Stackpole, Boy with Toys in LIFE magazine, 1956]
A human-scaled space is established by the positioning of four people and a piece of fabric [Franz Erhard Walther, Vier Körpergewichte (Four Body Weights), 1968]
A human-scaled space is established by the positioning of four people and a piece of fabric [Franz Erhard Walther, Vier Körpergewichte (Four Body Weights), 1968]
The domestication of wild nature defined by two pieces of furniture: a chair and a shadow mechanism [Ettore Sottsass with Eulàlia Grau, Do you want to sit in the sun... Or do you want to sit in the shade? (Part of the series Metaphors), 1973]
The domestication of wild nature defined by two pieces of furniture: a chair and a shadow mechanism [Ettore Sottsass with Eulàlia Grau, Do you want to sit in the sun... Or do you want to sit in the shade? (Part of the series Metaphors), 1973]
A room is characterized by its inhabitant’s choice of furniture. [Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates Inc. Image from the exhibition 'Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City', 1976]
A room is characterized by its inhabitant’s choice of furniture. [Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates Inc. Image from the exhibition 'Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City', 1976]
A kitchen built out of ad words that advertises a kitchen manufacturer. [Sancho BBDO, “The Kitchen you are imagining is in HiperCentro Corona” - Advertising for Cocinas Corona camouflaged in the classified ads of a local newspaper, 2016]
A kitchen built out of ad words that advertises a kitchen manufacturer. [Sancho BBDO, “The Kitchen you are imagining is in HiperCentro Corona” - Advertising for Cocinas Corona camouflaged in the classified ads of a local newspaper, 2016]
A how-to build the representation of a room [Jean DuBreuil, La perspective practique, 1642]
A how-to build the representation of a room [Jean DuBreuil, La perspective practique, 1642]
A grandma’s kitchen, measured [Lara Agosti, title and date unknown]
A grandma’s kitchen, measured [Lara Agosti, title and date unknown]
A precise survey of the artist’s domestic space turned into a book in which each of its 454 pages represents a 2,2cm cut of the house. [Olafur Eliasson, Your House, 2006]
A precise survey of the artist’s domestic space turned into a book in which each of its 454 pages represents a 2,2cm cut of the house. [Olafur Eliasson, Your House, 2006]

Interview

What is for you the power of the image within architectural discourse?

The primary role of architecture is to be used, and so an image can never compete with the material presence of a construction. However, images have the power to show us architectures that are long gone, that may have never existed, or that are very far away from where we stand. They have the ability to conceptualize architecture, and so they can illustrate space and matter in ways we cannot experience.

What prompted the project 'A Series of Rooms'?

A Series of Rooms started as an informal research on the representation of domesticity. Transforming it into a series of publications in a blog and on an Instagram account has pushed us to continue our exploration of the representation of the room, and to establish connections between different pieces that go beyond their format, period or origin.

What are your main sources of research? How are these collected, processed and archived?

The Internet is a vast, wonderful source of information. More and more, museums are displaying their archives in a digital format, understanding that a temple of knowledge should not be confined to the physical walls of a building. Auction houses and art dealers are also sharing valuable information of the works they sell. At the same time, there is a dense network of carefully curated content in the form of online publications, blogs, tumblr and pinterest pages, instagram accounts, etc. Books are obviously also a great source of information, as are lectures. We are curious, so one thing always leads to another, and then another.

We archive the images by author and then tag them with themes that relate them one to another.

What parameters define and influence your selection of images?

We are interested in every aspect that is related to the room as an architectural space. This idea is interesting to us because it allows for a mix of very canonical representations of domesticity with works that re-conceptualize the room in varied and often surprising ways.

Is there an 'order' in how these are then shared with your audience?

There is not a particular order, but there is the intention of creating a dynamic, non-linear narrative, so every entry offers a very different approach from the one that preceded it.

Would you call yourself a collector?

Aren’t we all collectors? Being a collector used to be linked to a certain class and amount of wealth, but the simple act of collecting as a means to gather knowledge has been democratized over time. The history of this evolution is quite fascinating to us.

From the Cabinets of Curiosities to John Soane’s home of wonders, individuals have assembled collections to better understand the world, and themselves.

And later in the 20th century, with what Benjamin announced as “The work of art in the age of its technological reproduction” and Malraux’s “Musée de l’Imaginaire”, the possibilities of collecting, particularly of collecting images, became greater for everyone.

The conversion to digital, the explosion of social media, and the ever-growing capacity of modern technology to store data, has made it increasingly easy to access and store all kinds of information.

How and to what extent has this research influenced how you operate as an architect and vice versa?

When we started A Series of Rooms in 2016, our built work in Bonell+Dòriga had revolved mainly around interior renovations. Having to work inside of a very constricted set of limits is obviously restricting, but it is also liberating, in a way. Without having to concentrate on the exterior image of the project as an object within a context, we could focus our attention on the interior space itself, where life happens.

This probably had an influence on the idea of creating this archive, so even if our architectural projects and A Series of Rooms are separate entities, they relate to one another.

Could you pick the one reference/drawing that was key to your (creative) journey?

One of the images that we have included in Archipelago is of Rachel Whiteread’s “House”. We found this work quite early in our research of “A Series of Rooms”, and it opened a new window of possibilities for us. It is not that we were not actively trying to limit the research to more canonical or perhaps literal representations of what a domestic space is, but it is true that those are the most direct and easy to find. “House” represents the inversion of the traditional architectural order of mass and void, and it remains one of our favourite works because it perfectly embodies the representation of the domestic space in a bold and conceptual way.

Have any of the reflections discovered and observed throughout this project influenced any of your projects at work directly?

Not directly. But this whole sum of references is something that we have on the back of our minds, and it surely influences our projects subconsciously.

In addition to digital platforms what other formats are you keen on exploring?

There are so many options! But none we are taking seriously at the moment… Of course, an exhibition or a book are probably the most obvious, although we might be even more interested in translating it to an educational environment and see how a set of students would react to a project brief that delved into this topic. In the end, we believe A Series of Rooms is enriched by the gathering of different approaches to the subject of the domestic space, so a format that would allow others to contribute new ideas sounds about right.

How do you envision this research developing?

This project has been going on for three years. For a while now, we have been identifying relationships between works, both intentional and unintentional, that we feel are worth exploring. So apart from presenting stand-alone pieces, we are starting a series of entries we are going to call “Analogies”, which will present two or more works and how they relate to one another.

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