Cabinet of curiosities
Ettore Sottsass, Architettura Monumentale, 2003 - Courtesy Antonia Jannone

«At a certain point in our history, we thought that we might be more or less capable of designing indoor places, places closed inside walls, walls that contain small rooms or vast rooms, empty rooms or crowded rooms, places for people who live in those rooms or work there, and places for many people passing through, or places for solitude or places only for showing off, even very different places, for tea ceremonies and for washing your face and hands, and for sleeping with your lover.»

Ettore Sottsass


2A+P/A (Gianfranco Bombaci, Matteo Costanzo)

Ettore Sottsass produced an enormous quantity of drawings, making it seem as if life itself (not only work) stimulated him to create pictures of his every consideration and thought. Some are sketches, colored studies for objects or buildings to be made; others are simply drawings with no other purpose than to be images.

Architettura monumentale, part of the 2003 exhibition “Architettura attenuata” (“Subdued Architecture”) held at the Antonia Jannone Gallery in Milan, is a drawing that belongs to this latter category, as it originated without a commission or a client and was conceived outside any specific context, or perhaps a context that was present only in the imagination of its maker. The drawing in question is an axonometric projection showing two sides of a volume standing on a tiled pavement with a grey sky in the background. The building is dark, rough and introverted, lacking an explicit function except that of being a piece of monumental architecture.

In an attempt to create an exchange with Ettore Sottsass’s work, we saw in this drawing the possibility of a collaboration outside of time. To us, this very mysterious yet highly expressive design was so full of promise and open for development. As already mentioned, the function is left unspecified, along with the context. However, we do know that Sottsass made the drawing at his vacation home on the island of Filicudi. Consequently we thought it might be considered as a house, perhaps located on an island overlooking the sea.

Our idea was to insert an autonomous element that would inhabit the inside, but leave the vaulted space intact, thus preserving its character. This element is an abstract structure, entirely yellow, which dominates the light-coloured interior, thereby always allowing one to distinguish between the two. A grid of columns and beams is placed in the black shell, relating to it both freely and dependently. It is detached from the walls, but corresponds with the system of different apertures. Its geometry is rigid, but it reacts to the curve of the great vaulted ceiling.

Thanks to the first Biennale in Orléans the project “A house from a drawing of Ettore Sottsass” had the opportunity to be realized in a smaller version, re-interpreting it as a Cabinet of Curiosities. The house turns into a pavilion, a new exhibition space for the city of Orléans.

As curators of the first “Cabinet” we put on show our obsessions. Architectures, objects, paintings, archetypical forms inhabit the first Cabinet telling a sort of history of temptations materialized by means of 36 new original drawings. The illustrations cover the walls of the pavilion without hierarchies or a specific order. They are juxtaposed to create unexpected meetings between the selected items, which are part of our background and of course of the Frac Centre’s collection. The entire collection of drawings is a visual essay about our idea of architecture and our intimate relation with it. The series of 36 drawings is now parte of the FRAC Collection.

Go to 36 drawings.