The house in which I was born was part of one of those working class districts which were built in Spain in the middle of the 1940`s, almost at the same time that Charles Eames asked himself in one of his essays the question: What is a house?
It was good fortune that my district was designed by one of those reasonable professionals who sometimes emerge from the humdrum existence of the provinces -Lorenzo Ros- and who, on the basis of a simple plan and rational structure, managed to make the district a pleasant place to live even now, one moment in the creation of history; or a district where, because of the alchemy of architecture my parents´s house -the past- has managed to become something else, the theatre of my life, shelter and safe harbour: my house.
You can study history of architecture, gather information and articles form magazines and pictures of my dream hoses, you can criticize and analyze the houses of your friends and enemies, but to order one´s house is not always a very easy task. One should know what is really necessary and what is redundant and trendy, and take the trouble to make it -as Eames says in the mentioned essay- modern, clean and realistic. And it is necessary to choose its creator carefully, someone who will be able to turn your desires into reality, show you what you want to see.
Martin Lejarraga, who has long been my friend and enjoyed my admiration, was the only architect who crossed my mind, especially because my opinion of his creative concepts and because I have seen that he correctly measures the distance between a client´s need and the structural solutions in his projects, enlightening the way between an idea and building with his intelligence. I wanted a house able to preserve memories which were yet to be lived through, able to make good use of what I beleive is a privileged orientation, and able to present a comfortable place for my cats, turtles, dreams and obsessions. And what Martin brought me was a sea shell.
After some time of wait -which always seems extremely long to us, the clients- my architect brought a sea shell, and he said that it represented the project, the key that, he beleived, represented the solution to the problem. I assume that someone else would have been bewildered, but I knew that the spark was ignited and the house had already been built somewhere; it is the same with my painting: my galley owner has learnt not to panic when standing in front of a pile of empty canvases, I tell him that the paintings are already being painted.
After numerous stories of splits between architects and clients, from Mies and Fansworth House to urban legends told by relatives and neighbours, this is one story with a happy ending. I do not care how the hell a magician produces a rabbit from a hat, therefore I will let others tell stories about games of transparency and reflections of facades, the manners in which living room open to the exterior spaces, proportions between empty spaces and differences between textures.
In the brief period I have spent in it, I know that this is the house I wanted, the one that interprets the abstract ideas and long conversations which brought to its creation, the one that translates something as elusive as dreams, fears, and desire into materials, spaces and arrangements. I believe that it will be a good place for laughter, meals, sleeping, conversations, love, creation…
If I were a hermit crab and found a small house like this, I would not hesitate to make it my shelter, my small castle in the sea.
Ángel Mateo Charris, painter.