Last year, for the centennial of the publication of Le Corbusier's design for the Maison Dom-Ino, Space Caviar traveled the length of the Italian peninsular in pursuit of ninety-nine reinforced concrete houses. Along the way they created ninety-nine short films. Their research, a survey of Italian domesticity and its relationship to the surrounding landscape over the past century, demonstrated that "few inventions have been as transformative of Italy as the concrete frame": simultaneously a symbol of wealth "generated by a building industry that rebuilt Italy from the rubble of the Second World War" and "the primary instrument of abusivismo," or the unregulated construction on the landscape. It is, as the team describe it, "the ultimate symbol of the architect’s extraordinary power — and enduring helplessness."
Corbusier's 1914 plans for the Maison Dom-Ino were for "a slab-and-column frame intended to redefine domestic architecture by embracing the versatile and affordable new technology of reinforced concrete in the service of modernism."
Inspired in part by the vernacular Ottoman architecture he observed during his travels in Turkey in 1911, Maison Dom-Ino could be read as a manifesto for openness in architecture—a hypothetical proposal for a new symbiosis between the hand of the architect and the individuality of the occupant. One century after the project’s publication, thanks to the virtues of economy and versatility that inspired Le Corbusier to employ reinforced concrete, the same slab and frame has established itself in southern Europe and in much of the rest of the world as the default formula for urban and non-urban construction: a technological, stylistically agnostic vernacular that articulates modernism’s impulse to colonise the landscape.
Maison Dom-Ino efficiently deploys the principles of modern architecture while embracing the unanticipated, and as such, it represents a moment of synthesis and aperture: by absolving the vertical planes of the building from their customary load-bearing duties, it effectively relinquishes control of the building’s exterior mantle, making any number of aesthetic solutions and languages viable.
The project was realised by Joseph Grima, Tamar Shafrir, Martina Muzi, Andrea Bosio, Gabriele Mariotti, Shakeeb Abu Hamdan, Alessia Santoro, Manuel Francolini, Silvia Ciotto, and Alicia Ongay Perez (Concrete Moduli) with the support of Fundación Alumnos47.
Find out more about the project which was originally exhibited as part of Monditalia at the 2014 Venice Biennale here.