Maria Valerio Ferrari – VMCF Atelier designed the ‘Casita and its invisible decoration’ in France.
Description from the architects:
With the Casita project Valerio Maria Ferrari tackles the delicate issue of juvenile psychiatric distress, transforming the architectural theme in “infinite possible narratives.”
“The Maison des Adolescents of Bobigny is located in the old Franco-Muslim Hospital (in the 1930s), in what was once the director’s home and is now equipped as a clinic and was nicknamed Casita,” explains VMFerrari. “It treats adolescents with all kinds of disorders, and French immigrants from different countries and of very different backgrounds, cultures and languages. In the usual approach, the work of ethnopsychiatry takes account particularly of the difficulties of integration between different cultures and languages. When I was asked to intervene in the interior of the Casita, my goal was to broaden the perception of the space of the clinic by creating a virtual space. The alternative language was created as a common denominator then grafted onto the concept of narrative and representation, as happens in the therapeutic instrument of psychodrama.” VMF
(At Bobigny Hospital, Serge Lebovici developed psychodrama and transcultural psychiatry in France in the ’60s).
The instruments Ferrari started from were linguistic instruments common to almost all the world’s adolescents: comics in all their various forms, especially those using new digital technologies, such as Hypercomics.
“Hypercomics are a new generation of comics that blend digital innovations, sound, animation, and hypertext (the ability to create hyperlinks inside or outside a text) using the modes of representation typical of comics. Hypercomics make it possible for readers to create their own path of reading, diverging from the narrative given by the author. The idea that comics could be something more than a linear and consequential sequence of images and texts, guided me towards a project that was not static and final but interactive and mutable in time.”
“So I sought the collaboration of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and David Baillie, well-known authors of digital comics, and together with the medical team we developed five characters, 51 images and 64 texts. By combining them in different ways, they could give rise to endlessly new and surprising tales and stories. Situations and characters were then printed on panels of irregular forms and various sizes. The complete apparatus with all the panels has become a permanent installation that Casita’s operators manage on their own, moving, concealing and placing the panels in different rooms by means of plugs attached to the walls of the clinic. The panels are backed by straps of velcro loops (glued to the backs of these plugs which are also fitted with velcro hooks) and are therefore easily moved from one place to another with a simple push or pull. Since it was installed in a public place, absolute simplicity in moving the panels and at the same time their strength and safety were essential to the success of the project.”
The five characters:
Mister Cat Suite, an enigmatic and elegant gentleman with the head of a cat. Of Egyptian origin, he works in high finance. He is never separated from his black bag.
Space Girl, a teen in retro-pop space clothing. She wears a helmet in which hover unidentified gases through which you can see her face.
Birdy is an athletic girl who works as a “carrier pigeon.” Dressed as a contemporary urban biker, she has big pigeon wings.
Old Man Kansas is an old cowboy with a white beard and a rusty mechanical arm. The past glories of the Far West are faded and now he plays chess in the park.
A wiener dog (no name) has a TV set for a head on which the faces of the other characters sometimes appear.
“To support the young people in the process of identification/empathy with our 5 characters, we needed a very direct relationship with the reality of Casita, something connected with its image and language. We decided that the interiors depicted in the panels (i.e., the settings in which the 5 characters move) should correspond to the actual spaces of Casita, with some colour variations. So the stairs, windows and chairs represented in the panels … are the current (and real) interiors of the surgery. Within the virtual representation there is also an opening into the fantasy world: in fact, all the exteriors – which can be glimpsed through the windows and doors are sci-fi places, almost surreal. You see backdrops teeming with fish, mountains both snow-capped and green at the same time, fleets of dirigibles …
We separated the texts from our characters – who do not express themselves through the classical balloon inside the panels – and we printed the 28 phrases selected on 64 independent panel, in the ten major languages (and scripts) of the countries where young people come from: Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Lingala, Creole and Tamil, then leaving the medical team free to organize the dialogues (or silences) of the characters. ”
Texts and images thus become the building blocks of a Babel, which, with its 3,264 combinations can create countless variants of narrative worlds and countless immaterial worlds to serve those seeking laboriously re-create their own.
The project as a Narrative Parure: architecture and decoration
“The Casita project has a clear interaction with the built environment. The set of panels has an undeniably ornamental appearance without being decoration in itself but merely an instrument for decoration. For this reason it is presented as a narrative parure. A parure, in addition to its use in traditional cultures as a tattoo of the face or body, is commonly understood as a coordinated set of jewels, intended to “extend and enhance, to irradiate the personality” of the wearer (cf. George Simmel, “The Parure And Other Essays”). The ultimate jewel of the parure is the diamond, precisely because of its brilliance and transparency. We speak then of a “functional decor” inspired not only by contemporary digital culture but also by the history of architecture, in particular by Gottfried Semper – “The parure is the secret passage connecting fashion to architecture and anatomy” – In fact, the definition of narrative parure is an oxymoron and it emphasizes how visible elements, images and text panels in their structural and combinations are essential to the creation of a decoration that is made invisible by the possible stories, narratives, that are formed in thought and speech. These chronicles have the same impalpable and light consistency as music. The panels remain instruments, counters in a game, an amusement, fleeting distractions, film stills scattered around the clinic, which demonstrate how the small 1930s building does not let itself be defined, in its new function, by the perimeter of its walls, but thanks to the parure, the space is virtually extended to influence the behaviour of doctors and patients.” Maria Valerio Ferrari
|Firms||Maria Valerio Ferrari – VMCF Atelier|
|Designer||Valerio Maria Ferrari|
|Collaborator||Franck Turpin, Virginie Berry, Marco Ferrara|