Back and catching

Here we go again. Telcom-Man phoned my this afternoon from a “distributor-station” (Verteilerstation) where something broke and blanked out my connection. He did what had to be done and that was that.
I dug through the emails of one week, most of the professional stuff was of no interest, the private ones were out of date. My travels with a magyar friend will hopefully lead to some success; we used all we had, like charme, cigars and
Tokaj for collecting some signatures and we got them: If all goes well, everybody will benefit.

You had to benefit a lot to treat yourself with a holiday in the torre positano – the new catch of the week. A mini-series about built dreams seems to develop, that started with Williams-Ellis’ Portmeirion, went on with the Futuro, and could be continued with Munthe’s Villa San Michele. But the man who built the tower of Positano was not a tank-general (like W.-E.) or a philanthropic M.D. (Axel Munthe), but a kind of godfather to the futurismo, so in a way he could be seen as Futuro’s great-grandfather: I talk about Gilbert Clavel (1883-1927). Clavel, of rich bourgeois swiss origin, is only possible in the fin-de-siecle european culture that brought us Jugendstil (de, en), Lebensreform and fascism. He was born into a family of industrialists in Basel, that made its fortune with the colouring of silk. He was the middle of three brothers, all were gifted, pretty individual, not to say a little eccentric. Gilbert was struck by fate with tuberculosis in his childhood that led to a bend spine and, well monorchidism – one ball only that is – Jay wrote a very nice encounter about it (28th of November 07). No other woman was in danger to have this experience with Gilbert, he preferred men. Nevertheless he phantasizes about his lost organ and its use, in a letter from Anacapri (March 1919) he writes:

Da wir gerade von Zeugung und Geburt reden, möchte ich Dich bei dieser Gelegenheit an meinen alten Hoden erinnern, der in Kl. Hüningen in einem Einmachglas aufbewahrt wird. Ich sagte Mama, sie solle etwas Flüssigkeit (Formol oder sonst ein Mittel) auf das verlorene Ei giessen lassen, um es vor der ewigen Vertrocknung zu retten. Wenn dann später das Gold wieder im Preise sinkt, werde ich mir von Sauter eine goldene Kapsel dafür bilden lassen, damit ich mein Ei als Talisman in der Tasche tragen kann. In einer guten Stunde werde ich es auch einer schönen Frau in die Hand legen und sie raten lassen!!”

“As we talk about fathering and birth I want to remind you of my old testicle that is kept in Klein-Hueningen in a glass. I told mother she should let some liquid be poured over the lost egg (Formol or such), to preserve it from eternal drying. Later, when gold will be cheaper again, I will have Sauter [a swiss goldsmith] make a golden capsule for it, so I can have my testicle in my trouser’s pocket as a talisman. In a good hour I will put it in the hand of a nice woman and let her guess!”
I cite this text from this site.

Gilbert bought the tower for some cheap lira and started building. In fact he started drilling and blasting: What can be seen of the tower today is just one thing, there are some more rooms inside the rock the old watch-tower is standing on. The groundplan should represent a dissected testicle – “and in this basic form I petrify the most vital – without anybody’s notice – what nature stole from me”.
After Gilbert’s death the tower came in the possession of his brother René who sold it to the Principessa Hercolani in 1957 – she owns it to this day. Gilbert’s library should still be there, the general outline is not changed, it costs a lot of sweet little euros to spent a night there. So, if you are around, with six friends, and everything else is overcrowded … why not have a look at the torre positano of Gilbert Clavel?


All done so far. No need to go downtown, just some lazy days ahead. Next week I’ll go for a short visit and after that again a few quiet days. On second of January the engines will start again.

Proxima is moving to a new house. It is rectangular and has wallpaper on it’s walls. That made me wonder: What about a house without right-angles and without wallpaper? This automatically leads to the “Futuro”.
The “Futuro” actually was not a house but a after-ski-hut and – of course Amanda – it is of finnish origin and design: Architect Matti Suuronen introduced it 1968. It was a commercial failure, because not too much people wanted to live in flying-disc-like house and after the oil-price-shock in the beginning 70s it simply became too expensive: It was made from plastics. Production rights were sold throughout the world in its haydays and so Futuros can be found in Northern America, Russia, Australia and in New Sealand – there are seemingly the most of them left – and still in use. As Suuronen once saied: No need to paint or to maintain; it needs a cleansing from time to time.
If you have the possibility to use a library that allows (inter)national access, get this book: Marko Home & Mika Taanila (Eds.): Futuro. Tomorrow’s House from Yesterday, Helsinki 2nd imprint 2003. It comes with a dvd, publisher is Desura Oy Ltd. Here is a fan-site that lists the world’s Futuros. If you are interested in such strange constructions, have a look at this site listing roadside architecture, it is very good addition to my very first “Catch of the week” “Roadside America“. A german article about Futuro and related matters can be found here.

But round houses existed before the Futuro and one of the most interesting is by Antti Lovag, who built a “palace of bubbels” at the cote d’azure: The “Palais bulles” in Théoule-sur-Mer that once belonged to Pierre Cardin. Lovag seems to be an interesting man whose biography should be written.
More than 80 years ago a pretty large round house was built in Dresden, the Kugelhaus. Unfortunately there is no english version of the site. From the Kugelhaus nothing is left except some postcards.
Futuro and colleagues are a nice springboard to not so common design feats like archigramm, BFI and Frei Otto. Have a look and enjoy!