Tuesday, 4 October 2011



Sitio by Santiago Borja at Villa Savoye

Sitio is an intervention by Mexican artist Santiago Borja on Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, that takes as its starting point, the Villa’s present condition of deterritorialized and timeless cultural icon, as an object that floats in space and time, struggling with the possibility of becoming just a remarkable but empty shell.

The word Sitio put its emphasis in the concept of place, of anthropological site, a place that is symbolically determined. Is in this sense that Sitio proposes a multilayered reading of the different phenomena that surrounds and anchors the Villa Savoye, as a kind of plea for what we could call “anachronic contemporaneity”.

The main structure of Sitio is called Destinerrance and has been proposed by Santiago Borja for the Villa’s park. It has been conceived as the “unnatural” superposition of two palapas, a structure that pays homage to an ancient maya building tradition but that has been undertaken from a contemporary perspective. We could also say that Destinerrance takes its final form through an oblique quotation of Hadrian’s Pantheon in Rome, one of Le Corbusier’s favorites buildings.

Sitio is indeed haunted by a Warburgian spirit that will establish a spatial relationship, between two heterogeneous structures, in the one hand the Villa Savoye and in the other Destinerrance. This “Anachronic Montage” will highlight the formal similarities in between the two structures, which could also be seen through Warburg’s analysis of recurrent forms in statuary art, under the concept of “Pathosformel”, a kind of eternal renewal of forms or formulas of emotional style. So it will unveil the formal connections in between two different cultures through the use of imagination and subjective experience. They will question in a dialectic way the concept of habitat, of formal architectural language, and the selection of building materials and techniques regarding what we could call their “natural” context.

The project Sitio is also a response to Adolf Max Vogt's thesis developed in his book Le Corbusier The Noble Savage (2003) where he suggests that the architect Le Corbusier was certainly influenced by lake dwellings on piles discovered in Switzerland during his childhood, he traces back the invention of pilotis no to high rationalism as argued by Le Corbusier but to childhood memories of these dwellings permeated by imagination and fantasy. Taking this into account, Sitio will establish a dialogue with the sometimes hidden fascination modernism had with primitivism and its simple and “expressionist” spirit.

It is worth mentioning here that the leading thread of the exhibition is the concept of weaving present in all the pieces in the exhibition. We see weaving as a primeval cultural asset and as the quintessential way of giving structure to something and in that sense as a clear precedent to architecture.

Apart from Destinerrance the other pieces are; Tapis (Rugs) intended for the floor of the Villa's living spaces realized according to the dyes, fabrics and techniques of indigenous communities from southern Mexico and Cosmogonie suspendue, a weaved floating ceiling manufactured according to Mayan techniques and materials but structured through more sophisticated engineering. This piece will be suspended above the terrace of the Villa and would reveal the patterns used by this Indigenous community to represent the cosmos.

Finally, we believe it is worth asking if the Villa Savoye is just meant to be a penetrable Sculpture or if its existence can still raise more questions than just praise. What is really Le Corbusier’s legacy and how do we handle and preserve this cultural heritage? In our point of view, they are essential to this project the ideas of translation and displacement, of exchange and contamination, of pollination or dissemination, that can embody new approaches to cultural globalization. For this purpose we have also developed privileged partnerships with several organizations, in particular with the Mexican National Park of Sian Ka'an in the Yucatan Riviera that guards and protects the Chiit palms used to thatch the palapas, a group of Mayan palaperos, and the French Architecture School of la Villette. In this same spirit, the project includes the creation of a physical, perennial and natural bond between a Mexican site (Preserved site of Sian Ka' An) and the botanical garden of Marseille thanks to the plantation of seeds from Chiit's palm trees, now in extinction. These works will affirm the relevance of the integration of local ancestral ways of making things (probably condemned to disappear), and a more global contemporary discourse, that looks into the future.

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