The Big Time
An unlikely source, a poem by Portuguese surrealist Herberto Hélder, yielded the Lisbon Architecture Triennial's 2010 theme: Let's Talk About Houses.
C.C. SULLIVAN -- Interior Design, 10/1/2010 5:05:00 PM
An unlikely source, a poem by Portuguese surrealist Herberto Hélder, yielded the Lisbon Architecture Triennial's 2010 theme: Let's Talk About Houses. And some of the commissioned works are just as surreal. Sculptor and architect Miguel Arruda's contribution might even offer a bizarre sense of déjà vu to anyone who followed the Lisbon gallery scene closely back in 1968. That's when Arruda displayed his Module, an elongated blob somewhat resembling a human aorta. Just 6 inches long then, the form has now swelled to 52 times its original size for the triennial-and is clad inside and out with the finest native cork. (Half the world's cork harvest comes from Portugal.)
Arruda digitized Module with a 3-D scanner to create an enlarged plan, then used CAD to formulate a roughly 1-foot grid of welded steel crossbars to replicate the shape at the scale that would be required by the triennial's version, Habitable Sculpture. The frame arrived in numerous pieces at its designated site, the olive garden of the elegantly modernist Belém Cultural Center. Next came the MDF strips that would support the decorative layers of cork. For the exterior, he specified straight-up outer bark, while the interior is an inner stratum more often found in fashion accessories.
As visitors walk around and through Habitable Sculpture, it's unclear to most what it's meant to be. A visual shape? An internal experience? Arruda enjoys this ambiguity. "Complexity and contradiction, to paraphrase Robert Venturi, are concepts that underlie my methodology," he says. "In this case, the public has a chance to experience the form in its new context and draw conclusions only possible at this scale." One day, perhaps, even more people than the design-minded crowds in Lisbon may be able to explore his mind via this shapely fixation. His sketchbook is full of drawings showing the form applied at even larger scales, some big enough to house concert halls and sports arenas.
Photography by FG+SG/Photofoyer.