Domestic Strangers (I): The Extraordinary Houses by Kiyoto Ota | Pedro Hernández

Casa de la Lluvia, al fondo. En primer plano a la derecha: Casa del Viento.
Rain House, in the blackground. In the foreground on the right: Wind House.

Upon entering the Chopo University Museum appear three small houses. We say houses because we recognize them as such: wooden volumes with sloping roofs of a picturesque appearance, typical of the drawings of what for a child could be a house. Its conception, however, is completely outside the canons of architecture: its size is scarce, its interior space almost minimal to be able to develop in them any activity and hardly fit a few people – between two and four -; In short, they are far from functional.

Casa del Viento.
Wind House.

The first – the Alicia´s House – has two doors, one at each end of the house in a mirrored symmetry; Each door gives access to a staircase at the end of which a small window – or door, depending on how you look – appears. Referring to the text by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, from the ladder the perspective is played: the generous access of the door is reduced as it ascends until the space is as small as the house of the white rabbit was for Alice after she ate that candy -“Eat me”- that allowed her to become a giant. Next to it, a second house, with a cross plan and two access doors, one in front of another, allow to enter a place where the wind runs in a unique way: from the inside out: six fans drive the air to the outside, making a fresh and generous current always inhabit the space. Finally, a house, reminiscent of constructions typical of tropical areas, appears only inhabited by water: it rains inside but it is not a question of leaks: that is the original idea, to invert the classic relationship of inner refuge against the inclemencies, transferred now to the warm interior and preventing anyone from entering, while the smell of wet

Úteruz .

Three “story houses” imagined by the Japanese sculptor Kiyoto Ota, born in Sasebo, Nagasaki, in 1948 and a professor at the FAD-UNAM, who, as he points out when describing them, are not houses but are like sculptures, or in any case, sculptures that, in our childhood memory, are shown as houses. These three same houses are completed in the exhibition with three other pieces that belong to his series Úteruz, developed since 2006, and that allows to establish more clearly the intentions sought by Ota: halfway between the nest, the egg or the uterus , this series shows us some constructions made of woods such as oak, pine and cedar that invite you to experiment with the senses in an effort to create a place – not space, in the words of the sculptor – warm and cozy that reminds the mother’s womb .

In response, the three extraordinary houses seem stranger and less welcoming: they allow access to them but they can not be inhabited for a long time: either they are too small or too uncomfortable or they already have their interior occupied: they are “contraúteruz”, refuges that deny that condition of refuge.

“They are not places”,

he tells us.

But the constructions of Ota, seen no longer from the field of sculpture, but from architecture, offer a radical and interesting reading, even beyond the pretensions of its author: the return to architecture its ability to create new worlds possible, not necessarily functional or utilitarian, yes much more magical, typical of a children’s universe that years of discipline have related to oblivion and that reminds us that architecture is nothing but that thing of organizing material components to build new meanings with them about reality.

Casa de Alicia.
Alicia´s House.

Pedro Hernández · architect
Madrid. February 2019

Soy arquitecto por la Universidad de Alicante, pero mi interés sobre esta disciplina se encuentra alejado de su papel tradicional de diseño de espacios. Más bien, me interesa entender cómo las representaciones de la arquitectura, el paisaje, el diseño o el territorio construyen y materializan determinados discursos ideológicos, imponiendo posturas, subjetividades y formas de acción sobre los cuerpos que la habitan.

En mi trabajo edito estos discursos –sus imágenes, sus historias o sus restos materiales– y reelaboro comentarios críticos que ponen en evidencia sus controversias y contradicciones, formalizándolos en diversos formatos como textos, fotografías, vídeos, objetos o instalaciones, muchas veces entrecruzados entre sí.

He publicado artículos y ensayos en diversos medios de Estados Unidos, Italia, Croacia, España, Chile y México. Desde enero de 2013-2018 residí en la Ciudad de México donde trabajaba como coordinador de contenidos en Arquine. Actualmente resido en Madrid.

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