Cristian Chironi – My house is a Le Corbusier (Curutchet House), La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Following the residencies that took place in a number of architectural works of Le Corbusier across Italy and in France: Esprit Nouveau (Bologna), Studio-Apartment (Paris), Appartement 50 – Unité d’habitation (Marseille), and the transits through the Cité de Refuges (Paris) and the Pavillon Suisse (Paris), Cristian Chironi takes the project My house is a Le Corbusier to a temporary residency in Argentina, in the home/studio of Doctor Curutchet at La Plata, Buenos Aires province, between 1– 26 August 2016. The first phase of Chironi’s evolving project is documented in the two-sided book – Cristian Chironi My House is a Le Corbusier / Broken English – published by NERO.
Chironi’s point of departure is a real historical episode: in the late 1960s, the Sardinian artist Costantino Nivola, who enjoyed a great friendship and collaboration with Le Corbusier, stopping by his hometown of Orani (also Chironi’s birthplace), entrusted his brother’s family with the construction of “Chischeddu” on a design by the great architect, with the hope that he and his sons, masons all of them, would scrupulously follow the plans. But they failed to understand the importance of this. Some time later, returning from Long Island, Costantino discovered that the house they had built did not correspond at all to the specifications which, as the entire family protested, “had neither doors nor windows and looked more like a shack than a house.” Nivola reacted by seizing the plans, which have since been lost. The house, which still stands today in Orani, built with a preference for low-brow functionality over the modernist vision of the architect, reflects only the ‘mood’, if that, of the original concept.
Taking inspiration from this real episode, Chironi identifies the narrative potential for an analysis of a series of relationships in the contemporary, tied to the concepts of communication, reading and interpretation, with the consequent linguistic and socio-political implications. Falling, in this historical period of precarious economic stability, in the impossibility of owning one’s own home, bartering the freedom to live in the houses designed by Le Corbusier around the world.
Chironi turns these houses into “privileged vantage points” to better understand how the legacy of Le Corbusier is perceived today, and in what condition the “home of man” currently finds itself. A reading of architecture through storytelling and the direct experience of its spatio-temporal dimension, where one can discuss and see the artist at work, partake in events, consult the assembled material or simply drink a coffee.
The Curutchet house, designed by Le Corbusier, was commissioned in 1948 by Dr. Pedro Domingo Curutchet, one of the leading innovators of medical surgery. The construction of the house was assigned to architect Amancio Williams, and took place between 1949 and 1955, when it was finally completed. It stands on four levels, and comprises of a courtyard that separates the clinic from the house. The construction acts as an example of the five fundamental principles of Le Corbusier’s architecture. It is clearly defined by its division into functional areas: work, life, rest, free time. The house also presents the characteristic relation between fullness and emptiness of space and is one of the only buildings designed by Le Corbusier that is attached to a preexisting construction, acting harmoniously with the historical context surrounding it. The house is a historical national monument in Argentina and currently houses the Colegio de Arquitectos de la Provincia de Buenos Aires. The Curutcher house, together with sixteen other buildings designed by Le Corbusier, has been voted to be included in the list of world heritage sites.
The design of Casa Curutcher is contemporary and in continuity with the ideas developed by Le Corbusier with the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille. For the present occasion Chironi will adopt the same approach used in the previous events by focusing on the relationship between house and visitor, on the confrontation between different languages, on the impact of direct experience on the artist’s work acting thus as a measure and thermostat of the present. By repeatedly redefining his lifestyle, challenging the linguistic and cultural codes he is used to, exceeding the distinction of static and mobile living, Chironis research will start from the notions of hospitality of and interaction with the audience, and aim at finding a way to live the world.
The similarity between the real story of the Nivola family, Chironi’s starting point for the whole project, and the famous film The Man Next Door, directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat in 2009 and set in the Curutchet House, is symptomatic. The film tells the story of a brawl between neighbours, during which a wall is the only thing separating their different “worlds of living.”
On one side lives Leonard, a successful designer with a passion for architecture, and on the other lives a rustic, second hand cars salesman named Victor. On settling in his new home Victor decides to build a window, in order to have more light, on the same wall separating him from his neighbour, causing the start of the brawl and for both men to have to acknowledge each others existence.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story about the La Plata house is the relationship between the client, Dr. Curutchet, and the architect, Le Corbusier; particularly the fact that Le Corbusier accepted a commission from a total stranger in a far away place, without a previous meeting or personal conversation. He never even set foot in the house nor in the construction site. These facts present a key of comprehension for this new step of My house is a Le Corbusier.
Chironi will use the clinic as a reception, consultation and examination area. One where the visitor will be free to lie down and listen. This is where the extension of the project, dedicated to sound, takes place. My sound is a Le Corbusier together with other additional elements, will constitute the containing body of this journey. Unlike the previous steps, where the artist’s focused on the domestic dimension of the homes, this moment will be slightly more clinical, an opportunity to separate a studio from a private space.
An encounter will take place on 26 August 2016 where all the reflections on Chironi’s experience in the houses of Le Corbusier will be sharedamongst the artist, the director of Casa Curutchet Julio Santana, and Equipo Curutchet House, accompanied by the presentations of video materials, various documents and by discussions with the audience. The book – Cristian Chironi My House is a Le Corbusier / Broken English – published by NERO, will also be presented on the occasion.
The experience of Chironi in the Curutchet House will last about a month and will be articulated in moments of solitary work and moments during which the visitor will be able to interact with the artist in the house.
Details and events will be announced on:
My house is a Le Corbusier (Curutchet House) is a project developed in collaboration with the Foundation Le Corbusier in Paris, Colegio de Arquitectos de la Provincia de Buenos Aires and Equipo Curutchet House. With the support of Bologna Musei | MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna; MAN – Museo d’Arte della provincia di Nuoro, Xing and NERO.