It was a bit like taking the building to the dentist

Alain Baneel says he found the restoration process fascinating. “It was a bit like taking the building to the dentist; we cut bits out and repaired the remains with new materials.”

“There is the added value that it can be taken and set up anywhere. It comes with its passport and is ready to go.” – Philippe Garner


“Build for eternity and objects might become relics from the past. Build for one generation and they might last for several generations”. – JP

I had the idea of writing a biography or something like that for the Maison Tropicale, which would also pertain to all the pre-fab houses he designed. I’m not sure whether that would take me anywhere though. I think the argument would lie in its in habitation and nomadic character…

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2 Responses to It was a bit like taking the building to the dentist

  1. Oliver Pershav says:

    The Alain Baneel quote is awesome. It’s like the building can move, behave like a man, a robot, so to speak, which goes to be “serviced” whenever it needs to.

  2. Sasha Alexander Zhukov says:

    Made me think of this by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame from 1887:

    “Once dismantled, it was brought in pieces to Iquitos (the metal sheets were carried by hundreds of men through the jungle), and assembled there in 1890.”

    I don’t seem to be able to post images in comments, but I was in Iquitos and saw the house. Iquitos is a crazy jungle place and the way the house has become a part of its life since the 19th century is really interesting/bizarre. There are also houses by Eiffel across the world, bought by local businessmen around the time of the Paris world fair – one in Angola, one in Mozambique that I know.

    Another interesting thing is that in most of the towns I visited in the Amazon, there would be at least one place that had exactly the same chair (I’ll show you photo) – across Brazil, Peru and Bolivia and the places where I saw it were completely random – the outdoor deck of a house in a floating favella in Peru or a barber shop in Brazil. Can’t imagine the factory or political regime that produced it – simple steel rods and stretched elastic wires – but it leaves a trace across the whole of the Amazon.

    The social history of products, especially ‘flat pack’ ones is definitely interesting! The Casa de fierro is both a colonial cultural statement and an artefact in the personal collection of the rubber baron. The Maison Tropicale is a lot more beautiful then just a practical solution to colonial housing, but also the design seems to be very evocative in terms of lifestyle, culture and maybe even socially (somehow), it’s definitely beyond an artefact… anyway – I’m getting lots of ideas from comparing the two houses, hope it does the same for you :)

    Also: Patricia Urquoia practically copied that chair from the Amazon and called it Tropicalia – I have no idea about how she came up with the design, but there might be some nice social history behind it (that you can compare to the impact Prouve’s chairs make)