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ON-LGGATIGN

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A FORM OF
RECOLLFCTIO
The Architectural
Interiors ot Luisa Lambri
BY SUSAN MORGAN

Since 1996 Luisa Lambri has been producing exquisite images
of unoccupied interiors: an empty hallway flanked by an ominous
battalion of half-opened doors: ribbons of unremitting sunlight
seeping through a tightly shuttered window; an unadorned plaster
wall glowing, shadowy and radiant as a full moon.
Lambri was born in Como, Italy, and studied philosophy and
literature at Milan's Università degli Studi, An inveterate traveler
by nature, she began to take photographs in order to create a
record of where she had been. Disregarding the familiar views of
well-documented edifices and celebrated landscapes, she chose
instead to picture the smaller spaces—private homes and hotel
rooms—where she had actually lingered. Like an absentee diarist
or an off-screen narrator, she was able to conjure up the presence
and particularities of a remembered place and the inevitable
absence of a transient observer.
In 1999 Lambri decided to make a 16-millimeter film, Untitled
(Solitrac), a 3-minute-40-second loop of a camera's eye roaming
the corridors of two Mussolini-era buildings in Como, masterworks
by Rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni: the Sant'Elia nursery

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blurring the stereotypes. Villa Gualino. and where nature might The built environment that Mirti clearly understood as architecture. Gerrit Rietveld's of modern domestic architecture provides her with an ideal Schröder House in Utrecht. the informed once you are there. Pierre Koenig's Case Study House no. mirrors. At Richard the passage of time. an account of individual perception occurring in a rigorously the private lives of houses. school (1937). as peers out through draperies. France. both far-flung and narrowly focused. the house is Angeles. and seeks out details. 2003. derelict factories. commissioned Lambri to participate in the in 1960. thresholds. is online guide to the world's great modern buildings. Italy. When architect actually one of architecture's essential building materials. 1922). academic architectural historians had long focused of photographs focused on the varying shades of natural green their discussions on building façades and exterior construction. This viewpoint is replicated in Lambri's in 1996 when he organized a tour of Turin for her. rather than highly premeditated habitats. These constructed images. a kind of Woodman photographed herself disappearing into windows and urbane itinerancy that is common among many of today's artists. an elegant International Style palazzo artists that Lambri generally cites as influences on her own originally created to house Fascist party offices and host political work. In Sherman's series of Untitled image." She and Mirti first met plot of modern architecture. Beginning in the late 1970s. Lambri often refers to her photographs as "self-portraits"— Even the most iconic structures of twentieth-century architecture— although they are not. and Francesca Woodman are del Fascio (1932-36). she presented a selection skepticism. Lambri's kindergarten alma mater. the writer Esther McCoy observed. Pane's 1968 film Solitrac provided photographing details of architecturally significant spaces. Although Lambri filmed each Terragni building in what realm of self-portraiture into a staging ground for questions and she has described as "a straightforward documentary style. suggesting untold photographed bands of light seeping through the Venetian blinds. of course. In Lambri's film Film Stills (which she began in 1977). Lambri's work falls quotidian environments. 1960). far outside the established category of architectural photography. she examined how and the House in Plum Grove (Tokyo. When Kazuyo Sejima. and Sweden. the subtle but revelatory shifts of daylight. Her architecture course. Japan. and the Casa Gina Pane. but is never able to get out. spent visiting some pretty strange places. constantly opens and closes artist residencies in the United States. where the façades of buildings never appear. that frame. in Pane's piece. she and enormously broad subject for an artist. SANAA partner and director of the 2010 Venice McCoy's landmark book. Many of the scenes they portrayed occurred within distinctions between the sites and delivering a newly contrived the confines of a domestic setting. Lambri confessed that she has always "used through these actions and elements she recognized the compelling architecture to talk about something else. a single woman variously loop. is what she had previously called simply "place". At Philip Johnson's Menil uuriv. Her photographs of spaces deliver an experiential and abstract in her photographs. was published Architecture Biennale. a literary writer and non-academic. "It was a proper photographs. a clearly defined but virtually nonexistent place appears.dpeiiiuv. her approach to architectural writing was met with exhibition People Meet in Architecture. these artists finessed the rallies. 22 (Los Angeles. Netherlands—appear unrecognizable framework. sits poised in an open tenement palpable and unreliable as a memory. a symbol of identity and the human body. taking in odd angles. by the firm SANAA. Space. A quick sampling of her photographic the forceful and disquieting rooms. alternating between solids performances. interpretations ranging from ruthless pencil drawings to hyperbolic echoing the rhythm of Neutra's design. overlooked intentioned setting. in any traditional sense—and her pursuit Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye in Poissy. 1937). McCoy. pressed against old mottled walls and concealed beneath Although she is based primarily in Milan. "a whole series of afternoons camera's eye is deliberately subjective. the body. Finland. 1951). As Lambri began to photograph interiors. window. Schindler's Kings Road house (Los Interpretation of Dreams: in the dream imagination. the DuParc. She has been awarded a woman. Lambri said. you might find yourself within a space and what it is that you feel recent Pritzker Prize laureates)—could rival Galinsky. alone in an apartment. a glimpse into the sensations of place and or evocative elements and unanticipated situations. collide with architecture. doors." how spaces flow between indoors and out. Lambri works in a boundlessly international tradition. M. her ongoing project. basements of the Molinette hospital." her attitudes about feminism. Lina Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro (Sao Paulo. Five California Architects. the junctures. Self-portraiture is. and a room is a woman." she recalled. a pliable Neutra's Strathmore Apartments (Los Angeles. Cindy Sherman. By focusing entirely on the view from within. and cultural editing merged the two buildings into a single frame. or leans dejectedly against a spattered kitchen door. record. She looks at inhabited spaces. England. and spring up around well-known buildings. sheets of decrepit wallpaper. a visual rendition of an invented space. psychoanalysis. is the inspiration (and subtitle) for Lambri's later film. surround. Brazil. looked by contrast at In an interview with architect Stefano Mirti for the Italian design floor plans and how people move through interior spaces—and magazine Abitare.org . hint at Sigmund Freud's subjects—including R. and air and always insistently horizontal.

damp as a terrarium and overgrown with ferns. she photographed a more specific and intimate vista: a patch of sky. Lambri aims to capture light. her own poetic truth.House (Houston. Being There. and ephemeral experience. imminent storms. palms. #47). Lautner's house is cavernous and imposing. Lambri turned her back to the spectacular view. an angular concrete-and-steel shelter with low timbered ceilings and vast glass walls that survey a nearly endless prospect. curator Alma Ruiz compares Lambri's interest in the phenomenal aspects of a site to the work of artists such as Larry Bell and Robert Irwin—proponents of the Light and Space movement that started in California in the late 1960s. of the place being portrayed. however. Lambri's work reminds us. shadows. and a tracery of leafy branches. Light. It is an image that recalls nineteenth-century cyanotypes—such as the stark and wondrously luminous algae studies produced by Anna Atkins in the 1840s. a lost planet drifting toward the interior of cool steel and gleaming black tile floors. The courtyard garden is tropical. Lambri's 2010 exhibition at the Hammer Museum of the University of California at Los Angeles. #46). She shoots hundreds of large-format photographs onsite and then scrupulously edits her selection. In an essay written to accompany that exhibition. Untitled (Strathmore Apartments. Lambri's photographs are unstaged. shadows. . Untitled (Strathmore Apartments. sunlight. A door is slightly ajar and the glass walls are clouded white with humidity. Lambri's work and her experiential approach certainly evoke questions about visual perception and physical sensation. FROM TOP: Untitled (Strathmore Apartments. featured a series of photographs taken at John Lautner's Sheats Goldstein residence (Los Angeles. 1963). but her decision to make photographs seems to run a zigzag course leading much further back into art history and the origins of photography. The garden appears otherworldly. has always been photography's subject. Untitled (Strathmore Apartments. she doesn't move furniture or add objects. she photographs a lacy sunlit pattern of leaves and branches floating in an illuminated and unreadable space. #054). Looking up through a modernist skylight. espousing a reductivist approach to art-making. challenging viewers' perceptual experience and questioning the artist's need to produce material objects. and banana trees. #01). During that process. all 2002. Lambri documented an interior courtyard as a thunderstorm approached. After studying the interior.© PAGES 32-33: Untltled (Menil House. Built into a steep hillside. she digitally manipulates the images. THIS PAGE. adjusting the light and contrast In order to create a truer feeling. 1950). Through her photographs. 2002. #44). a low-slung brick building that presents a windowless façade to the street. Looking up through the house's small skylights.

TOP: Untitled (Barragan House #06). BOTTOM: Untitled (Barragan House #11). tftftt:a/)cr/iire.org . both 2005.

2( 2 apcfttirc / . BOTTOM: Untitled (Barragan House #12).5- . both 2005. no. TOP: Untitled (Barragan House 009).

2007. Switzerland . Los Angeles. All photographs courtesy Lutiring Augustine. Wl}. OPPOSITE: Untitied (Sheats Goldstein House. #15). THIS PAGE: Untitled (Schindler House. 2007. New York/Thomas Dane. London/Marc Foxx. Barragan House images © Barragan Foundation.

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