When Mauro Gil-Fournier talks about The houses that inhabit me (Mincho Press, 2021), refers to “affective realities”, not to projects. This book is the starting point of an introspective and, at the same time, expressive work of an architect who has conceived his own inner life as a series of buildings (or their parts) that manifest different states of mind, feelings, inhibitions, joys, complexes, purposes, hesitations, creativity and the securities that new freedoms give.
Ego and attachment – also guilt – come into question in the choice of materials, the dimensions of the rooms, the size of the windows, the style, the thermal insulation, the fireplaces, the quality of the drains, the quantity transparent surface of the façade, and the absence or presence of stairs in each of the houses that Gil-Fournier (Burgos, 1978) imagines to describe the interior states through which it passes, or has traveled. Undoubtedly, he has traveled similar vital paths to those of the rest of the people of this time, even when his feelings are very particular and his way of expressing them is unusual (and inspiring).
The result of that meticulous immersion in oneself to tell it in words and images is reflected in a book made of drawings and house plans to admire before building, accompanied by texts that explain the daunting that preceded the design and the reasons for the decisions. . “Designing as an act of listening”, proposes the architect and teacher, founder of Affective Architectures, who has worked for fifteen years in construction and urban planning projects that promote citizen initiative and consider that the architect is an “urban caretaker” who must guarantee rights.
What design listens to are affects. Thus, this graphic confession is made of spatial and material expressions of what we feel, both the joyful and the disturbing, without avoiding precisely what we feel in the moments of the shipwrecks, before knowing if they will reach the life jackets for all. It is an “affective autobiography” that has found its own language, which exceeds the words of a language to also be a line, stain, void, color, angle or vault.
What is represented is the result, but also the process. There roots what heals. “Abandoning the urge to define oneself or stop making the effort to build an idea of ourselves are tasks of daring oneself that allow us to cross fears and places where living life can be an easier task,” it reads .
The houses projected (pun intended) by Gil-Fournier are more than a dozen: the house of questions and the house of certainties, the house of anxiety, the house of hidden egos, the house of guilt, the house of dazzling, the root-rhizome, the nursery of myself, the house of attachment, the any house, that of growing up to learn to be children, that of disinhibitions Y to buy time. They are accompanied by some first pages dedicated to explanations of why architecture is –or should be– an affective event, or “a promise to create community” and some “plans to build a life”.
How many of our own inhibitions do we transfer to our projects? How many shame do we cover and hide with our designs?
That life could be sheltered by a different house than that of “anxiety”, which “is not finished” and does not have windows or doors. “The floating walls, of the same thickness the exteriors as the interiors, are open”, and from there “everything sneaks in”. Those fragmented walls contain a place where “no stairs are needed, because anxiety does not have the patience to go from step to step, so it climbs or jumps from one slab to another,” he writes. In the end, the house itself is a hole.
“We are all architects”, the author ventures, because we are capable of opening exterior places, sincerely, from within. “Houses are no longer something only exterior to our bodies”, since we can build spaces that cancel out the difference between the exterior and the interior, turning them into “a mediation”. For example: “To get to the uninhibited house we think about the Dom-Ino House of 1911, in which Le Corbusier showed his invention as a new constructive system, that did not show anything of the functional one ”. Faced with this historic prototype, he cries out: “Let’s show our operation! Let’s dare to show our shame! “
The architect imagines, then, that shameless residence –in a good sense– that inhabits us when we can stop competing for everything and stop thinking about winning: “The uninhibited house captures as much as it expels. There are solar panels that capture energy and transmit it to the rest of the plants. On its roof are the tanks and reservoirs that keep the water clean, away from the rainwater (…) But let’s not hide what happens inside. Pipes and wiring run through it. And in its ground floors and its foundations, the dirty water has also been able to overflow and create an unforeseen puddle in the foundation, which can make it weak. We must open, ventilate and sanitize (…) A house linked to the world by an umbilical cord that transmits our truths and our shame. How many of our own inhibitions do we transfer to our projects? How many shame do we cover and hide with our designs? “
The houses that inhabit me, With just over 100 pages, it tries to rethink our technical knowledge based on an honest pact with our inner being. His illustrations and nude texts give clues about new possible ways of living together in our buildings: “Architecture also makes us up. The material affects us. If this is so, can we work on developing an affective materialism? Can we think of a material architecture that helps us grow together as a society? ”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.