[ Published on Icon Magazine 123, September 2013, words : Rossella Scalia ]
The Paraguayan architect Javier Corvalán has designed a house for a film-maker in the countryside outside the capital city, Asunciòn, which comprises two simple rectangular blocks, one on the top of the other. The base, built with local sandstone, houses a bedroom and bathroom; the upper metal structure, which is covered by a galvanized sheet, contains the kitchen and living room.
What makes the house such a private retreat is the complete absence of windows on the upper volume. Instead, light and air enter through the opening and closing of the whole structure like a box. The ‘lid’ is lifted by a side pin which is rotated using a manual winch.
In this way, the house takes on two radically opposed aspects. When the lid is open, the architecture blends into the landscape; when closed, it is cut off. However, even when closed, the house has a neat trick to maintain communication with the world outside: the upper volume acts as a camera obscure, so the image of the surrounding landscape is projected into it through a pinhole.
Corvalán seems almost to be following Vitruvius, in book III of On Architecture, for the construction of this house : ‘ The human breast should have been furnished with open windows, so that men might not keep their feelings concealed, but have them open to view… However, since they are not so constructed, but are as nature willed them to be, it is impossible for men, while natural abilities are concealed in the breast, to form a judgement on the quality of the arts which is thus deeply hidden ‘.
If Vitruvius dreamed of a man who could connect his interior being to the outside world through the act of opening a window, Corvalán’s suggestion in the form of this house is to open, not just a window, but an entire structure to the outside world, while also allowing its inhabitants to withdraw to an inner world.