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Peter Zumthor Interview by Francesco Garutti

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Peter Zumthor Interview by Francesco Garutti for Klat Magazine| The Hardt

 

Peter Zumthor Interview by Francesco Garutti for Klat Magazine. Peter Zumthor is without a doubt one of the greatest architects of his generation having designed countless iconic museums and cultural centers, the interview below helps shed some light on the private genius

He is contemporary art and architecture curator and editor. He was “Emerging Curator 2013–2014” at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and took the position of Art Editor at Abitare between 2011 and 2013. Garutti worked as architect and researcher for Peter Zumthor Architekturbüro between 2007 and 2008 and was Zurich Correspondent for Domus Journal. In 2012 he curated the archive of Portikus Under Construction at Peep-Hole, Milan and published his critical essays on art and architecture in volumes and catalogs by Mousse Publishing, Bedford Press, Grotto Publications, Skyra Rizzoli New York among others. As studio program and contemporary art exhibiting projects curator at THEVIEW, Genoa, Garutti has presented solo shows of artists as Peter Wächtler, Haris Epaminonda, Ian Law among others. He’s currently Adjunct Professor of Interior Design in the Department of Architectural Sciences at the University of Genoa and has been a guest lecturer at Politecnico di Milano, Bocconi University Milano, Architectural Association London, University of Manchester and University of Antwerp among others. His recent editorial works include FAIRLAND – a collection of analytical standpoints and possible visions on the role of the art fair today published by Koenig Books (2014) – and his publications Can Design be Devious? is going to be released by CCA Montreal in 2016. He’s now working at the first solo show in an Italian institution by Belgian artists duo De Gruyter & Thys for Triennale di Milano.

 

I’d like to start by asking you to tell me about this place, Haldenstein, where we are now and where you live and work.

In the beginning, I lived in that old red building (he points out of the large window that faces onto the patio of the house, ed). My son lives there now. It was in 1971 that we bought a house here, with the engineer Jürg Buchli. Fully in keeping with the ideals of sixty-eight, we renovated that building ourselves. Many years have gone by and I’ve constructed two more buildings here to live and work in. All in a very natural way, without planning.

The first wooden studio-house was built in 1985.

The idea of that building was to have a room on the upper floor for designing and working and to keep the room underneath, at the level of the garden, for the family, but in fact, I’ve never used it like that, as a gartensaal, I mean. In the red house, we had no space for a garden and I thought of designing the architecture in that way. Then seven or eight years ago my studio had grown and I had the chance to buy the piece of land nearby. I waited for the bank to let me have the funds, and when they came this other building was born. With the passing of time, I started to feel at home here. Perhaps not so much in the first ten years, but afterward yes. Now I think that this place has really great quality. Because in this small and pleasant corner among the Alps, all the houses belong to us or to friends. And this gives us the possibility of maintaining the quality of the place. It’s a little bit of paradise here. But perhaps the crucial thing to be said about this place is that living and working coincide here, there’s no difference. The image in a way is that of the farmer with a large working family, children, grandchildren and so on. This has always been the way I work.

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Zumthor Studio, Haldenstein, 1986. Photo: Hélène Binet.

Here there is a strange sense of the passing of time. Everyone who spends even just a day at your studio notices it. The atmosphere here seems suspended, but very dense. And this kind of relationship with time is at the bottom part of your practice.

I believe I am capable of creating an atmosphere. Yes, the time here is dense, characterized by concentration and intensity in the work. At the moment there’s a very fine group of twenty, twenty-five people who are working with me and it’s fantastic. It’s not a family, but a genuine community for doing something with passion. And it’s as if by being together we grow stronger as if everyone sprouted wings. Thomas Durisch who was one of my collaborators twenty years ago, once told me that for every architect in the studio doing things with me in a way gave strength to everyone. It was as if each of them thought while working together in the studio: “Yes, I could certainly do this too, indeed I could do it better.” Then when they went home some of them tried to do it by themselves, but realized that something didn’t work. It wasn’t the same thing. He said there’s a specific kind of atmosphere here, he called it fluidum. It’s like I’m curating this fluidum and the people somehow work in it. And now this atmosphere is very strong. It’s also nice that Annalisa (Zumthor’s wife, ed) is now working here. We are investing a little bit more in organizing things like table tennis and parties, between the studio and the house. People like to stay here and so do we. And this is very good for working. But you know, I want to say there’s a kind of mutual respect. It’s not about becoming friends, it’s about being good colleagues and working together.

I had the chance in the office to see you and your wife reviewing the projects together. It was interesting to see how you perfectly understood each other and how important it was for you to have feedback from a person close to you, but not an architect.

Now that Annalisa is here, I often go around in the office reviewing the projects with her. It’s very important to look at things with people who are not trained as architects, but who have good intuition and feeling. I mean Annalisa has been living with an architect for thirty-five years, so she can read and judge a project. This is very important. As we know, in the end, architecture is for normal people, not for specialists. Sometimes you become blind during the process. Days ago we were talking about the project of this house I’m designing for Tobey Maguire in Los Angeles. We were discussing the construction of a floor. I was totally convinced that the floor was not to be done in wood because everything else was already wood. I thought of something mineral, a kind of stone, but she said “wood.” We put wood in the model and it worked incredibly. That was the most interesting proposition for the project, just to conceive that everything would be done in wood. Sometimes a view from the outside can sort a problem out.

Yes, I understand what you mean. Going back to the issue of time for a moment, in your house-studio, you keep all the models, even those in one to one scale, of structural details, samples, and materials. You said you like to live amongst them. How do you reconcile the idea of the time you have with the idea of time your client might have?

Now, this is not so difficult anymore. It used to be difficult. Now clients like to get involved in a design process that can take years. People seem to understand… now that they know what I do. They understand that time is needed. But you have to explain to them that this is not just technical work: arriving at good architectural concepts is artistic work in the end. If you have to write a symphony or a string quartet or… it’s like writing a book. It takes the time it needs, and that’s it. The architecture I do is not something you can order at the store. For me, architecture is an authorial work. It’s not just rendering a service, it’s developing an idea with the client and becoming more intelligent together as the design process goes on.

You very often use samples on a one to one scale to check details, space, and proportions. It’s something not so common in architectural practices in the world because it takes a lot of time.

Le Corbusier worked in this way. People told me his studio in Paris was full of one to one things, handles, doors and so on. It’s the same kind of curiosity and passion for things to be just right in scale, material, and proportions to the touch.

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Zumthor House, Haldenstein, 2005. Photo: Pietro Savorelli.

You sometimes speak about memories and records as a part of the process of your inspiration. Can you tell me something more about it?

This is not a big mystery. We are all part of life and we absorb life. If we never had consciousness of what we experience and what we see, what we feel, we would not be human beings. This is the basic thing that we have. We have experience. From there I decide. I don’t take a decision through abstract concepts. If there’s an abstract concept, I try to translate it immediately in my mind into a physical form so that I can somehow feel it with my body, soul, and emotions somehow. The architecture I’m looking for doesn’t stay on paper as a concept. Therefore in my mind I always imagine my projects being part of the physical world.

You know, I thought immediately of you when I read The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish novelist collected thousands of objects and records in a room in Istanbul before starting to work on a novel set in the seventies, the time of his youth. He used all these objects as tools to write a story. He needed real objects as an inspiration for him to start writing. Now if you go to Istanbul you can visit that room.

I like it. I’ll do a lecture now in Helsinki and afterward at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich with the title: Love at First Sight, and the subtitle will be About Spaces and Things. I’ll talk about specific objects and the space created for them. For instance my private collection of things that I keep on my shelves. Let’s say half the people have this passion for objects. Nice. Of course you can develop a passion for things and also for places. I have the feeling that this place here is full of passion. People may think this is a remote place, but actually, it’s the center of my work. And geographically speaking I can reach the airport at Zurich in no time.

Working here I’ve never felt I was in a remote place. The architectural experience is unique of course, but it’s not just that. As you said it’s a mix of things: the place, but mostly the community of people. This makes the experience here stronger. It makes this place a sort of “right” place. And there’s another point. It was here that I met Richard Serra, the kind of person you maybe meet once in your life. Or Maurizio Cattelan. And the director Wim Wenders was here. This place, now that you’re here, has a catalyzing power. It can make us think about the notion of “center” in our contemporary society or the new idea of geography you were referring to before. What is your relationship with other world-famous architects?

Respect from a distance. The opinion of architects who don’t belong to the team working here would somehow disturb the work. Their opinion would bring the wrong kind of energy. The construction of a specific concept and emotion for a project developed here together over hundreds, maybe thousands of hours cannot be shared easily. Even good or intelligent critics would seem like an intrusion.

Here you’re not disturbed by anything and are completely into the work, only focused on that.

Yes, all the time. And if there’s something that can disturb this I have to eliminate it. You know I can be pretty hard and say: “Ok that’s it, out please.” Because I need to fire here and it has to be my fire.

In this connection, can I ask you something about the relations you have with the media? What do you think of the image of your work presented to the world?

It’s difficult. I’m still reluctant, but I’m trying to put it in a more polite form compared to twenty years ago. I could say that I’m more polite now! But it’s more like I’m trying to protect my work here. I’m happy that people can appreciate my work, that people can see it and so on. I’m trying to show and explain my practice and myself to the outside world, and make myself understood. For this reason, I have started to go out again, giving a lecture every once in a while. I go to the ETH in Zurich every three years or so to give a lecture and to talk so that the students can see how I work, my interests and passions, and my joy. This is all I want to convey to the outside. In the last years, we have started working on making a homepage for this office on the web. Probably it’s going to be a one-page website, with no images, and with only a text explaining the office philosophy: what we do and what we don’t want to do. Information about shows and books and publications, of course. It’s the same thing again: I don’t want to be snobbish by not having a page. We’ll do something simple, not advertising ourselves.

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Peter Zumthor, Sogn Benedetg Chapel, Sumvitg, 1988. Photo: Hélène Binet.

Talking about distributing and disseminating thoughts about architecture, you’ve been a teacher. What kind of suggestion would you give to a student, to a young architect?

If you start to become an architect you should somehow start to build up your personality. You should ask yourself questions like: Who am I? What do I have inside me? What do I like? Why do I like this? When teaching you should encourage people to come up with this attitude. You really have to be careful not to suffocate them with many big theories. I think it could be very dangerous to start your education in architecture in an abstract way. You have to create a good atmosphere so that people can express themselves. Not impress anybody. And there are other important things to learn which really could be taught and in my opinion, are not taught enough. This is a discipline too. It’s a mestiere, the craft of making. You should take it seriously. Light is light, the shadow is shadow and there’s construction. Architects should learn everything about construction!

How did you learn things?

It’s a good question. One could say I’m an autodidact, but I think I’m the opposite! I grew up in a family where everything was made by hand. “The craft of making” again. So in my house, this was a sort of tradition. We were doing everything by ourselves. I learned in a really technical way, my father was a cabinetmaker. I had to work in my father’s shop, I didn’t want to do that, but he forced me to do it so that I could walk in his footsteps. That was a very powerful experience. I had to stay there eight hours a day, sometimes doing very repetitive and boring work. In this way, I learned how to aim at quality and precision in my work with endurance and persistence. Then I went to the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, the Academy of Applied Arts, and there the school was organized on the lines of the Bauhaus: a one-year course, Vorkurs, of preparation teaching the basics of design, and the Fachklasse, teaching the knowledge of a specific field. In my case, this was furniture and interior design. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I saw that everything I learned there I learned in the first year, during the basic course. Not during the Fachklasse. In the Vorkurs I learned about the principles of composition with lines, areas and volumes, the principles of writing and typography, the techniques for recognizing and mixing colors. Then drawing objects, animals, plants, human beings by hand, and this practice was mainly about looking precisely. All drawing is about looking… You start to draw cubes there for instance. Yes, drawing cubes. If I remember well it was twelve hours a week of drawing cubes. For the first half year, only drawing cubes.

 

 

Really?

Yes. You have the cube on the stand in front of you, you have to draw it and then the teacher sits down and places his eyes where your eyes were and looks at your work, maybe saying: “Are you looking at this cube from a helicopter or what? I don’t see this cube like this. Start again.” Then the same thing with writing. We had to learn to handwrite, with a big pen, Carolingian script. My teacher studied it at the Bauhaus itself. Here everything was about negative and positive space. Everything is done by hand. The first day of the Vorkurs I remember the professor came in saying: “Hey guys, this school is called Kunstgewerbeschule, but what you are doing from now for a year has nothing to do with Kunst (art, ed). Just so that you know.” And he was right in a way, it was mestiere. These were my two basic pieces of training, and then in 1967 came a sort of ethnological education in art history for me: ten years at the Department for the Preservation of Monuments in the Canton of Graubünden. Looking at farmhouses, looking at settlements. I wrote a couple of books on this topic. I was doing inventories, studying the structures of historical settlements and checking historical art forms inside buildings: for instance the decoration on the façade of farmhouses, like graffiti in the Engadine. It was a way to learn art history from the bottom up. I was studying vernacular architecture. It was a fantastic and formative experience. Before that, I had also studied at the Pratt Institute in New York, and there I really learned nothing. I went to the industrial design class and the teacher looked at the material I had done before and told me: “I cannot teach you anything, none of my students can do what you have already done.” But one good thing was that I met there Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, László’s wife. She was teaching History of Architecture at the Pratt and I wrote two papers for her course. She was an eyewitness to European architecture, I remember she often talked about all these people like Mies van der Rohe, who had been her friend.

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Peter Zumthor, Memorial to the Burning of Witches, Vardø, 2007-ongoing (model). Photo: Jiri Havran.

 

How do you view your early projects now, looking back? How has the way you design changed over the years?

The method has become much better. I teach the people working with me, and I think that now it’s functioning very well. We do things and then we talk about them. We do and we talk all the time. The process is very model-related, its core is image-related and I’m the director of it all. As you know, I gather everybody in the office in front of the project and I make up the questions. I put the questions in the right order and I wait for a reaction. When somebody wants to explain his answer I always say: “Please, no. Just say if you like this solution or that solution.” If you start to rationalize you cover up the immediate reaction, your immediate feeling. It’s more like keeping this fluidum of immediate reaction to things. I really don’t want to kill off this first reaction by talking about it too early. And most of all I think that every emotional reaction is true for the person feeling it. It cannot be argued by another person. I think this procedure is pretty perfect for me. The most difficult thing for me is that I’m impatient. My wife is helping me to be patient with my architects, I think I’m getting a bit better now. In the last few years, I’ve been trying to improve my understanding of individual people, of what a person is able to do and what not. Before I was probably a bit too schematic in thinking that everybody should be able to do everything, which is completely stupid. Somehow a while ago I was taking myself as a measure, a reference for my collaborators, expecting them to become like me. Referring to your questions about my old projects now, I can say that two days ago there was a concert in the Protective Housing for Roman Archaeological Excavations in Chur, a project I completed in 1986, and there I could see that certain details of the architecture were disturbing me. Small things, but I was really smiling when I looked at them. “These elements are too small,” I thought, or “these others should not be flush, they should stick out.” So in a way, I could see that I have developed. Thirty years of always looking, checking, looking and looking again at details and proportions. Maybe I’ve become a little better than thirty years ago.

I remember one day we were talking in the office about a sample of zinc for a roof of the Almannajuvet Mine Museum project, in Norway. We were discussing the material and the roof structure, and suddenly you said something like: “It’s perfect for the floor!.” We looked at each other in the office, surprised and not understanding what kind of floor you were referring to. You realized that instead of the poured lead, zinc would have been perfect material for the floor of the Bruder Klaus Chapel, a project completed a couple of years before.

I’d forgotten this!

In a way, it’s interesting to think of the possibility of making amendments to designs during the life of a building. Can I ask you now to talk a bit about some of your current projects? I’m referring for instance to the Memorial to the Witches Burned in the Finnmark, at Vardø in Norway. It’s a project you carried out with the artist Louise Bourgeois during the last period of her life. How was it working together?

We were invited to do a memorial building, she as an artist and me as an architect. I asked her to start, but she wanted me to start. So I designed my building, my interpretation of the task, and she took my design and reacted to it with her installation. So the memorial now consists of two buildings, a glass pavilion with a fire burning in it reflected by huge mirrors and my corridor building almost a hundred and twenty meters long. It’s a textile space with windows and bulbs lighting a biographical text on each of the ninety-one victims. The long textile space hangs in a wooden scaffolding. It’s a dark narrow passage. Two ramps as accesses on each side. Both buildings, the corridor, and the pavilion are situated exactly on the spots on the seashore where the women were burnt.

Can you tell me about some of your projects that you couldn’t build?

Projects are never in vain. Sometimes ideas never built come up again. It happens many times. I worked for three or four years to make something for a project called Poetic Landscape in the North of Germany. But it didn’t work and only later did I find out that the Bruder Klaus Chapel was the product of all the work I had done on the Poetic Landscape. Thomas Durisch is preparing a new monograph on my work and I’m sure it will be possible to see how ideas and projects that may have never been built or published reappear in other proposals.

It will be possible to find analogies between projects really distant in time. Looking back at the whole opus of an artist or an architect it’s nice to have the chance to see how all the ideas and themes explored can go together and can be summed up in a few strong and crucial concepts. But maybe it’s something that happens only with great artists and architects.

In my experience some things and concepts are basic. They always reoccur.

 

 

Make sure you check out another interview below that goes in depth with Peter Zumthor on The Therme Vals!

 

 

 

Aesthetically and Geographically Related Projects:

 

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Benesse Art Site Naoshima by Tadao Ando located in Naoshima Island, Japan

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Benesse Art Site Naoshima by Tadao Ando located in Naoshima Island, Japan | The Hardt

 

Benesse Art Site Naoshima by Tadao Ando located in Naoshima Island, Japan. “Benesse Art Site Naoshima” is the collective name for all art-related activities conducted by Benesse Holdings, Inc. and Fukutake Foundation on the islands of Naoshima and Teshima in Kagawa Prefecture and on Inujima island in Okayama Prefecture.

 

 

The Chichu Art Museum (地中美術館, Chichū Bijutsukan)

 

The Chichu Art Museum (地中美術館, Chichū Bijutsukan) is a unique modern art museum built into a hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. The museum building, designed by Ando Tadao and itself a work of art, is mostly located underground and solely utilizes natural light to illuminate the artwork. This creates a viewing experience that is heavily influenced by the surrounding natural environment.

 

 

The museum has been built around a rather small collection of art. The first gallery displays large murals from Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” series. This is followed by a few works by James Turrell, who uses light as a medium. They include the “Open Sky” room from his “Skyspaces” series which has sister exhibits around the world including the 21st Century Museum in Kanazawa. Finally, the deepest part of the Chichu Museum houses the “Time/Timeless/No Time” installation by Walter De Maria. Tickets are purchased at the museum’s ticket center located a short walk downhill from the museum entrance. The ticket center has a small cafe and waiting area as only a limited number of visitors are admitted to the museum at one time. There are also coin lockers available as bags and cameras are not allowed in the museum and must be stowed before entering.

 

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Interview With Phillip Dixon at Most Instagram’d House In The World

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Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA | The Hardt

 

Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA. This is the most Instagram’d house in the world apparently (not sure how that stat was calculated but it seems to be the consensus among a number of reputable outlets) The following interview was done by Kendall Conrad for C Home. On a gritty Venice side street, photographer Philip Dixon has crafted a sanctuary for the senses woven with natural hues, broad swaths of soothing stone and calming water.

 

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Philip Dixon is a compelling sight to behold, with a face mixing equal parts Klaus Kinski and Sting, and an affinity for wearing caftans. A photographer’s photographer, his extraordinary Venice Beach house and the garden is a reflection of his unique vision—a finely tuned aesthetic of minimalism, natural beauty, and ethnic accents.

His early years were spent working in a photo lab, where he soon became a master printer. He then turned his sights to photography. Having made his break-through at Playboy (where he liked to portray women as “strong and in-control heroines”), he went on to an expansive career in America and France, shooting for fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and French Elle. Always in motion physically or mentally, women in Dixon’s world are sculptural, formidable beauties in tune with their environment. He has photographed celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Sean Combs; record covers and advertising campaigns for brands like Nike, Patek Philippe, Victoria’s Secret and Yves Saint Laurent.

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With a budding career in home design and photography books in the works about Africa and Mexico, Dixon is finally working for himself. Having moved to Venice in 1972, Dixon has shared this house with his girlfriend—photographer Veronique Vial—for the past 12 years. C Contributing Editor-at-Large Kendall Conrad spoke with Dixon about his overlapping realms of home, work, and life.

 

C Tell me the inspiration and story behind your house. Why did you build it? Why in Venice?

PD I did it in Venice because it’s the best place to live in L.A. You can walk everywhere—it’s a village. It was a nasty neighborhood at first, but I always knew it would change; it just took much longer than I thought. In architecture, everything designs itself based on what you want. You have to look at where the light comes from; you have to look where the wind comes from. And then you have to know how you want to live. And the way I wanted to live was with the pool and the garden and the house all incorporated into one. Then I built the big walls so I could keep the house more open and have privacy and security.

C Do you find Venice has changed a lot?

PD Drastically! Now I have heard it is one of the most expensive areas per square foot in all of Los Angeles.

C How long have you lived here?

PD I bought the property in ’78 and I built the house in 1990.

C What was there back then?

PD A little wood cottage and next to it, an old market that I then made into my studio. There were gangs shooting at each other outside, killing each other. It was a nightmare. And then it slowly got better and better. I tore down the little wood house, kept the studio the same and built everything that you see.

C Did you work with an architect?

PD I got a contractor who could do plans. I did it so we could get the permit. I fought with him all the time because he was more traditional than I was.

C So it came out of your head?

PD Yes.

C The most predominant elements that stand out when you first see the house are stone, wood, water.

PD It’s all natural.

C And everything is open to the outside.

PD Yes, it’s all open so you can live with the water and plants and the house all together instead of having them separate.

C And the giant doors?

PD When I designed the house, I thought there should be wooden doors and glass doors—if it was cold, I could shut them. But I never shut them downstairs. Very rarely. Upstairs, maybe in the winter, I shut them—at night to sleep, but that’s it. Most of the time it’s all open.

C How many rooms are in the house?

PD Well, that’s a way of designing, too. I like large spaces that you can live in separately. I don’t like a bunch of little rooms. And so there are basically four large living areas in the main house. That’s it. But it’s about 6,000 square feet.

C And those living areas are?

PD A living room with a big fireplace; dining, kitchen, and an outside living room; a master bedroom; and then an extra bedroom that doubles as a sitting room upstairs.

C And then you have outside rooms and decks.

PD Yes, everything has an open wall with a deck outside, so you’re inside-outside even when you’re upstairs.

C And you chose the plants for your garden?

PD I chose cacti and succulents because I travel a lot, so I didn’t want to come back to a dead garden. I have low-maintenance plants. I like them because they’re sculptural. Every time I would buy a plant—whatever it was, a palm tree or a plant of any sort—it happened to be from Madagascar. I’ve never been, but I like all the plants from there because they look primitive.

C Yeah, you expect to see a dinosaur rounding the corner. And this sort of almost Middle-Eastern feeling of the walls and the stairs and furniture that you’ve built in?

PD The best architecture in the world, the most beautiful architecture, as far as I’m concerned, is in Africa—the parts that weren’t colonized. In, for example, southern Morocco and farther south, they make their houses out of materials that are around them, and in the process of building their houses, they put their personality into it. It’s not self-conscious, so they’ll make their houses, their bowls—their everything—in a pure way.

C So you applied that thought outside and in. When you built in the banquettes and the sconces, everything was built into the house?

PD Yeah, because I think, for me, normal furniture and paintings and all of that stuff is just jewelry. When a place is done, you shouldn’t have to put anything in it or on the walls. It’s already decorated; it’s already furnished. And also, it flows. So you have the seats, the tables, everything works together. And you just put the cushion on it and it’s easy maintenance. I’ll pick up a stick or a rock—to me, that’s art.

C What about the texture you’ve captured on your walls?

PD I didn’t want to use a cosmetic color. I wanted it a little bit warm because the light that comes into the room is open shade, which is blue, so I wanted to have them beige only because it looks like the stone I like—sandstone. So I put brown sand with white concrete which made an organic color, not a cosmetic color, and then I put acid on it to expose the sand more so that it looks like sandstone.

C And the rocks that are in your fireplace and around?

PD I went up and picked out 40,000 pounds of rock in Lompoc in Central California. And I wanted the walls to have a similar feel to the rocks that I picked out.

C And the treatment of metal in your house?

PD I just put a little acid on it to give it a patina, then I finished it with a sealer.

C And what’s your favorite room?

PD It depends on what time of year. In the winter, I like upstairs because the sun is prominent there. In the summer, I like downstairs. So, it just depends on the time of year and the time of day. I like different places in the house at different times of the day. Depending on the light.

C Tell me about the pool and the mosaic floors and the mosaic in the pool.

PD The mosaics are made by Xavier Llongueras. He had always done pieces with lots of colors, but I wanted, tone on tone, the same color as the walls—like beige stones. That was before you could buy all those cut stones. We cut them all ourselves, and I fashioned it after a Moroccan bowl, which is behind the dining room table. And that was my inspiration. And then on the pool, we did something that looks like it’s been there forever, you know, broken and…not perfect.

C The mosaic under the dining table looks like a carpet.

PD Yeah, that’s what I wanted: a stone carpet. So that you could—once again, low maintenance—wash it.

C Do you collect anything?

PD No, I only collect rocks and sticks [laughs].

C How did you get into photography?

PD When I found out I like to arrange things. It’s easy to be complicated and difficult to be simple in any kind of thought pattern. And when I realized that, I went down to the simplest form of what I was good at, and I thought, “Oh, I am good at arranging things. Now, what can I do as a job where I can arrange things? Aha! I can arrange things and take a picture of them.” And then I taught myself photography.

C How does your house influence your work? Do you use your house often in your work?

PD I’ve shot here a lot over the years. Because I’m a photographer, I’m sensitive to light, so I designed a house where natural light plays a key role. I have a studio next door, but I’ve ended up shooting at my house more than I shoot at my studio because the light is so beautiful. But now I’m into plants because photography was one-dimensional. Then architecture is three-dimensional, and you can use it. Now I’m into gardens, which are three-dimensional, but they’re alive and they grow. It’s another thing that’s really satisfying—using the same muscle in my head that I use in my photography, for architecture, and for gardening. Basically, I’m a gardener now. Most of the time I’m in the garden. If you look at my pictures, my pictures look like my house; my house looks like my pictures. And they all look like me. It’s one point of view.

 

By Kendall Conrad
PHOTO: Philip Dixon

 

 

 

 

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Baron House located in Skåne, Sweden by John Pawson

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Fonte Boa House by João Mendes Ribeiro located in Fonte Boa, Portugal. The Fonte Boa House is a single family house designed in a rural estate in Fartosa, Fonte Boa, in the center of Portugal. The small estate, with a vineyard and olive grove, is located in the Rabaçal valley, confined by the Jerumelo, Sicó, and Espinhal mountains. This expressive valley’s landscape, which was once occupied by a Roman villa (around IV BC), is now mainly characterized by small plants and big olive trees. The house is located in the west side of the estate, protected from the main road, taking advantage of the best sun exposure, the surrounding trees and the views over the valley. The accurate position of the house was set so that there wouldn’t be major changes in the terrain, maintaining the existing slope and preserving all the existing trees.

 

 

Reinterpreting the traditional single-family housing typology, the house is a two-story rectangular volume with zinc pitched roof, whose volume detaches itself from the slope with a concrete basement (occupied by a small wine cellar). From the street, the entrance is made through an opening in the stone wall that limits the south part of the site. The open garage, built below the terrain level, is enclosed by concrete walls, by the semi-underground concrete box that hosts the laundry room, and by the stairs that lead to the upper level where the house is located. A succession of platforms leads to the entrance of the house, which is protected by a windbreak door. Inside, both floors are organized in three parts, with core stairs and utility area that, on the ground floor, divides the dining from the living room and, on the first floor, separates the two main bedrooms.

 

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