A room is still a room
Even though there’s nothing there but gloom
But a room is not a house
And a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart.
Dionne Warwick, A House is not a Home, in Make Way For Dionne Warwick, Scepter Records, 1964
The Modern Movement’s promise of an architecture for all, which simultaneously established itself as a landscape – physical, social and political – and as a dwelling – first as an emancipated object, then as a constituent and generative part of a much wider territory – would die, according to Charles Jencks, with the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe in 1972, in the city of St. Louis, in the United States of America. In its more radical and literal physical configuration, the architecture of this Movement promoted the immediate articulation between interior and exterior, stating its continuity from the transversality provided by the judicious composition of materials holding a light and ethereal appearance and nature. While, on the one hand, steel threatened to reduce form to its structural condition, glass would otherwise assume the paradoxical condition of an immaterial boundary. The modern curtain wall thus superimposed a real need – that of defining a limit – onto the will of its dissimulation – of the limit, but mainly of its necessity. For the erosion of boundaries was not only a spatial or perceptual proposition, but above all an ideological statement, in the sense that architecture would unify people, would put them into a state of confrontation transformed into a meeting. The need to destroy boundaries was thus the need to construct a seamless social and physical territory, an urban support where nature and
artifice would exist together as an organic whole. The modernist cell would thus conceive the existenz minium as an expanded field, at the same time that, from its conception, the city would compose itself not as a surrounding but as an inevitable consequence.
The Vipp Shelter, an architectural object produced by the Danish company Vipp, is proposed as a shelter, a necessity – or as a response to a need – when in fact it presents itself as an exclusive piece that avoids any kind of confrontation, rather looking to hide itself, to escape… there is no ideology here, of course, but a technical statement, a kind of neo-modernist exaltation, devoid of any generative idea – a deviation which, it should be recognised, has always followed, particularly in the post-war period, the modern project. The Vipp Shelter is thus an end in itself, a type-object, which, contrary to what Le Corbusier wrote in his 1925 text Besoins-Types, Meubles-Types, does not really correspond to a logic of productive rationalisation that reacts to an emergency, but to the capacity – rather to the possibility – of individual detachement, to the technical capacity for promoting such a disconnection and for endowing its inhabitants with a kind of existential lethargy. Long gone is the anguish that, in 1956, the House of the Future from architects Alison and Peter Smithson advocated, no longer a cell but a capsule, no longer part but fragment, which, by reversing the experiences of the early modern, looked inwards and upwards, as if the only existing territory was the one developing within it – that surviving and imperfect garden, a landscape evocating other myths, surrounded by an opaque, neutral shell, a radical assurance of physical survival in the face of the external vacuum.
The standard character of the House of the Future thus set in motion a melancholy disguised as novelty and embodied a drifting movement rather than a place. Blatantly mixed with the epithet of pop product, this house would, about nine years later, lead to a conclusion, as ironic as critical and projective, proposed by Reiner Banham in A Home is not a House, where architecture, almost being re-founded as anti-matter,
finally cemented its status – to the sound of Dionne Warwick – no longer as a building, but as atmosphere.
The statement included in the presentation
catalogue that the Vipp Shelter adapts to any type of landscape or natural condition seems to characterize its existence as a matter of resistance and protection – indeed, of shelter; its definition as a total object further emphasises this condition, reinforced by the rough, darkened appearance of the steel structure and its riveted panels, by the external staircase that seems to invite us to a privileged and vigilant space on the rooftop, by its twelve basement supports adaptable to more or less shapeless terrains. But here the issues of resistance and protection are framed in an all different way and destined only for some, those perhaps exasperated by the urban chaos and craving for nature, apparently understood by the creators of this object as a peaceful and orderly image…
The Vipp Shelter, a product that presents itself, after all, as something exquisite – nothing here is pop – and complementary – nothing here constitutes a basic necessity – is then assumed to be not a vehicle for the most elementary resilience, but an invitation to a state of über-survival, to a greater and privileged state of existence. It is in this sense that its material and referential ambiguity – somewhere between the hermetic character of a Nautilus and the panoramic domain of its eventual
external context – is configured.
Deceptively removed and in tune with the
cosmos, the would-be inhabitants of this fantastic place will therefore have all the conditions to idealise the world…
Project date 2014
Architecture Morten Bo Jensen
Project management Morten Bo Jensen