Corners are the convergence of two walls, two forces, two energies once sketched on paper and now elevated to the status of physical elements.
The corner of a house is the result of a romantic encounter, a kind of chaste material kiss.
Two vertical elements (two walls, two bipedal architectural elements which have risen up from the ground, leaving behind the realm of crawlers), two elements which grew from the ground up, are there, have met, intersected, and rather than attack each other have, surprisingly, sought mutual understanding. Indeed, a corner is the product of an understanding between two walls. They could have continued, each on its own path, but decided instead to stay put; reining in their momentum, they formed a corner, a shelter of sorts, a hiding place.
This, then, is the genesis of the corner. Two intersecting straight lines form an angle; when the angle gains height, it becomes a corner, and when the corner gains a roof, it becomes a shelter. The corners of homes are sheltered angles, prime locations for children playing at hide and seek. In fact, corners are the domain of children. Corners always seem to age less than the centre, the core of the home.
But corner and centre are two players in the same game. The corner looks towards the centre, observing it. The centre of the room is observed. The corner is hidden, while the centre is on full display – the star of the show. The corner is a lookout post.
They are like two opposing elements: the centre is where people converge, the corner is deserted. The centre is a hub of movement, the corner is the least frequented part of the room. But it is, for this very reason, a place of great intimacy. The centre of the home is a venue for parties, the corner is a place of secrets. No one seeks out the centre of a party to tell a secret, but sometimes the circumstances of human conviviality give rise to corners in the most materially unpredictable places. For example, when a person leads another by the sleeve of their coat through the hustle and bustle of a party and, leaning close, tells them a secret, at that particular moment in time those two people form a new corner; an ephemeral one, a corner existing not in space, but only in time: a human corner. That is the law: where a secret is told, a corner is formed.
Therefore, the real, material corners of a home are in truth receptacles of potential secrets, of potential confidences. A simple room, with four corners, has four potential secrets – one, two, three, four. And yes, of course, out there in the wide world there are rounded corners; corners which seem to usher in another kind of human interaction. The shape of corners provides a clue as to how people interact among themselves. Every civilisation has its own corners.
Finally, a few practical points. You should not fill corners with junk or rubbish. You should not fill corners with useless items you doubt you will ever use again. You should fill corners… by not filling them. That is to say, you should fill corners with nothing at all. You should leave them empty. The corners of a home are the refuge within the refuge, the smallest cave inside the protective cavern of the house. This hiding place, this ultimate shelter, is an empty space with the capacity to accommodate a human body. That is what a corner should be, and that is how corners should remain. In waiting; like someone who can, at any moment, offer protection.
The inside of a house is the result of a giant excavation.
Excavation is a form of sculpture – and sculpture is a form of excavation, one might say.
To sculpt is to excavate stone – it is to excavate horizontally rather than vertically. It is to excavate not just matter, from left to right and from right to left, but air too; to give shape to the air which remains between materials placed above ground. What is taken from the stone is not just pieces of matter which occupy space. Also taken are pieces of matter which appear to occupy no space at all. The invisible air takes shape by surrounding the hard, visible matter from which the sculpture is made. Sculpture gives shape both to matter, and to the invisible. The invisible becomes that which surrounds a form, a kind of negative image of solid matter, with an identity of its own. The more personality the solid part of a sculpture has, the more original its negative, that invisible anatomy which scrupulously and accurately surrounds the matter.
What shape is the invisible? That is the question to ask when speaking of interiors.
Let us at this stage invoke Heidegger and the function of philosophy: philosophy goes round in circles; it is the opposite of progress in that it does not move forward, instead drawing endless circumferences. And why?
Because it constantly circles the centre, the essential.
Perhaps it could be said that it traces an ever deeper circumference, into which men can fall (and not just men, but also objects, habits, the city). This, then, is what it means to ponder the essential: to constantly circle the same thing, but going deeper each time.
And that, one might say, is also the job of an artist, of an architect, of a writer. Circling the same things, but every day a little deeper.
There is a notable difference here in relation to the concept of technological progress.
shout those who regularly introduce new products; progress as legwork, as forward motion, as ground gained; like someone seeking to put their name on as many square metres as possible. Occupying territory, like an invasion. This is what armies do, just like technology or certain ideas of progress.
Art, architecture, literature and philosophy follow other physical orientations: they go madly round in circles, working frantically, but always within the same square metre. They dig, go underground, return to the surface to breathe, and dig again in the same spot. At most, an architect or an artist turn the ground they have appropriated into a hole, then a well; and as the excavation deepens, a point is reached when they can only be extricated from the well by another, with the aid of a rope or a ladder. Someone must remain at the surface to ensure the safety of the one going down to the bottom.
“Downwards!,” shout those who work in the arts, “ever downwards!”.
Poetry and architecture; space and rhyme.
Mário Quintana, a Brazilian writer and poet, wrote a short text describing a family evening from his childhood in which a relative reads aloud from a poetry book:
After a while, Gabriela exclaims:
“But it doesn’t rhyme!”
This causes quite a stir, eliciting disbelief all round. Poor Juquinha hurriedly reads out the last two verses…querulous…white…your…inane…vague…infinitely…
Heavens! How could it be?
“The rhyme must be in the middle,” major Pitulga solemnly pronounces.
This is met with a collective sigh of relief.
Well, there it is. In space, in architecture, the rhyme – if it exists – must also be in the middle.
What is the interior of a space? It is the impression of rhyme, of harmony, of material agreement among all the parts. As if the inhabitant were the final rhyme; the rhyme that is in the middle.
“Where the sun enters, the doctor does not.”
Every project is a window, a link between two spaces and two times. On the inside, you are in the present looking out, at what is to come. Inside, out; present, future.
This division of time is particularly evident when, for example, you see an animal – a buffalo, say, to name a round animal – when we see a buffalo, a herd of buffalo, approaching our house, it becomes clear how the window provides a glimpse of the future, of what is coming. A buffalo is coming, a storm is coming, a friend is coming. A window is a thing that gives us access to what is coming.
It should be noted that we are always (mankind is always) on the inside, even when in the open air. The place where we stand is our reference – what is on the other side, or around us – is a kind of remainder.
There is, then, an ancient conflict, apparently asymmetrical and disproportionate: the home against the rest of the world; but not just any home – our home! As if the world had been split in two by some mathematician suffering from self-centred delusions. There are two parts of exactly equal importance: my tiny home, and the vast, endless world. The window is the frontier between these two psychologically equivalent spheres.
The window is also a large-scale optical instrument – an instrument comparable to the microscope or the telescope.
— Telescope and
The window is the most ancient instrument created to assist the human eye. The microscope assists the eye as it bends towards the minuscule, while the telescope assists the eye in that backward shift of the body which enables it to take in the grand spectacle of the universe. Then there is the ancient and modest window. The window, that most ancient of technologies, enables the eye to see the outside – that is all. Correction: it enables the eye to see the outside while feeling protected. Because if you are outside, you also see the outside – but with a feeling of discomfort, or perhaps even danger. The window is an optical instrument with a calming effect. It shows that you have (or occupy) an indoor space from which you can observe the vastness of the outside world.
In the end, the window is curiosity made glass. It is curiosity in concrete form.
I have here two completely different ways of exercising curiosity, someone might say of two different types of window. A window which opens outwards: explicit curiosity; a window which opens inwards: timid curiosity. And so on.
What is a window (summary)? It is a household appliance which enables us to see what is coming (one possible definition).
An appliance, yes – a kind of immobile machine; immobile, yes, but a machine nonetheless; square, rectangular (or round) – a seeing machine.
Windows, then, have this function too: framing the outside, transforming a shapeless landscape into a square, rectangular or round one.
Imposing geometry on asymmetrical nature. Cushioning surprises, in other words. This, among many others, is the task of the ancient window.