LIGHT AND STRUCTURE

Story By J.P. Garcia

Up in the cliffs overlooking the shore near Cannes is Palais Bulles – the Bubble House – Pierre Cardin’s abode and, arguably, Hungarian architect Antti Lovag’s most notable commission.

To call Lovag an architect is overly simple for he is the founder of habitology – he studies and designs human habitats. As a habitologue, Lovag always sought to confront the normative Cartesian base that fills architecture with straight lines and right angles and that has confined us inside polygonal structures. He rejects these laws as a product of human construct, and by abolishing parallels and perpendiculars and adopting the circle as the mother structure, Lovag intends to bring mankind closer to nature.

Circularity evokes life. We are brought to light from a nurturing circular environment to find ourselves interacting with other people in circles. The very geometric form that represents our journey from conception to death is a circle. Here, in the few years that are given to us in this little round planet of ours (which orbits around another spherical celestial body), our motion and our trips throughout the globe and back home (given we check the ‘round-trip’ box) describe sinuous lines. It is intuitive that we’d embrace the comfort of the circle in what’s most dear to us: our habitat. 

The Bubble House had been chosen by photographer Margo Weathers as the location for an Armani Women’s story. Serendipity however brought her instead to the birthplace of habitology–the home Lovag had built for himself. There, almost as a confidante, Margo heard from the habitologue his reasoning when building the house. These words and images are her personal account of it.

Were you familiar with the architect and his work before choosing to shoot in the house?

Like many, I had seen vintage editorials shot in the Palais Bulles that Lovag built for Designer, Pierre Cardin in 1989 and thought the home would be a wonderful element to work with for fashion. What I did not know until later was that the house was built only after the Designer had seen the home Lovag had built for himself. We were very fortunate in that the Producers had a connection to Lovag and we ended up being one of the few allowed to shoot in his home rather than the Cardin one. We were half-way up the hill to Lovag’s house when my Producer asked me if this would be okay instead.

What brought you to that place for that specific job?

We were shooting a selection of Armani clothing. Armani is fan of architecture and his pieces can be very structured. Since it was women’s clothing, I loved the idea of structure in a more curvature-based form to compliment it. Another thing that made his design great for a fashion story was that the architectural elements are at all levels of the home, so the model could actually be integrated with his structure rather than just surrounded by it.

Why is the construction such an attractive location for fashion editorials?

Aside from design that produces abundant natural light, original aesthetics and the Glamour Cred of a location in the South of France, it might just go back to something Lovag told me himself. He specifically created the home(s) to be very female. There was both amusement and admiration in his voice when he spoke of basing his architecture on the curves he so admired.

Since most fashion is intent upon glorifying the female form, you could say that fashion and Lovag’s home have that in common.

What was your first reaction coming into the house? Did your perception of the space change throughout the time you spent there?

Well, after the initial surprise of finding out that we were not going to the Cardin house, I have to say I was really pleased to find a more-well, analog version of the basic design. Modern technology makes almost anything possible in architecture and I believe it has affected our expectations.

I suppose that like all ‘beta’ versions – this house that he first built for himself years earlier felt more textural than the slick Cardin home.

Once inside, one finds a complete lack of sharp edges to be serene and cozy rather than modern. Given his aforementioned female inspiration and that we all originally come from a similar environment, it was not surprising that everyone found it exceptionally comforting to be inside that home.

In looking generally at details, it is clear that a human hand was involved in its creation– yet, the design was and still is so modern that it creates a great juxtaposition.  I suppose the presence of Lovag at the house that day lent to that connection. It is definitely why I chose to shoot these images with film and had them hand printed on fiber base paper.

When one hears the architect talk about a house he built for himself while inside that structure, the communication is pretty strong. It was a great experience and I’ve rarely been happier about a lack of communication between my producers and myself.

In all your pictures, you frame one or multiple windows. Is that driven by your own interest in light as a photographer, or are windows a ubiquitous element in the house?

Since these images were shot on actual Illford HP5 film, they were dependant on the light source of the windows on that very fog-soaked day. But the windows are also the thematic core of the home. The place of human origin is protective and enclosed, but the whole idea is that there is a way out. In addition, all great architectural design is a balance the structure itself and the effect that light has on it. I love that Lovag kept femininity to even that part of his design – so that on the sunniest of days, the shapes light would make within his home would be just as friendly, serene, and sensual as any interior design element. The amalgam of grace and humor is a constant goal in all of my work, and I loved finding it in this structure as much as I loved finding ourselves there for that cold winter day.

Photographer: Margo Weathers

Contributing Editor: Gus Romero
Writer: J.P. Garcia