Full essay at: BITÁCORA Arquitectura no. 39 (2018): 134-139
At first glance, House Declercq reveals a simple construction embodying all the categories with which traditional domesticity is associated: a pitched ceramic roof is punctuated by a chimney that explicitly symbolises the warmth of the home, a brick wall is topped by a gutter that shows how rainwater is collected and drained, and a flat grass lawn in front of the house creates a bucolic, almost pastoral, experience.
This is a construction that seems to belong to a time of imperfect physicality. The differently-baked roof tiles, the uneven horizontality of its roof ridge and the texture of its brickwork, technically distinct from the machinic ambitions of early modernism, all display a handmade craftsmanship with a sense of gravity and primitivism. The proportions of the pitched roof and the windows take us back to a time before the structural audacity of contemporary architecture: a time when load carrying was readable, architectural materials were pristine and the landscape was natural. Even the wooden window frames, whose mullions create a 3×3 checkerboard, seem to hark back to the days when glass could not be conceived as a continuous flat surface. As it stands, the building could even be identified as an icon of old domesticity. Yet a closer look at the house reveals a deeper reality than that suggested by this elevation.
If we peer inside the windows, none of them reveal the predictable elements that the inside of a house is expected to contain. As if it were a trompe l’oeil, each of them shows a different reality. Whereas the window on the right remains almost entirely black, the middle one displays a smoky reflection of black and green tones and the one on the left reveals a few chairs, a swimming pool, a cross and a horse. None of these elements can be seen behind us, which eliminates any possibility that this is a reflection. One is even reminded of a surrealistic composition à la belge, with that Magrittian genius for the interplay between super-realistic, almost mundane images and surreal conditions.
PROJECTS /// HEAD – Genève. Train Zug Treno Tren. Inaugural Exhibition at Mudac [Lausanne: Mudac, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Villa Cuadrada [Madrid, 2022] /// HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi. Herbarium of Interiors: A Milk Bar [Milan: Alcova, 2021] /// HEAD – Genève & HEPIA. Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse [Geneva, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, fala atelier. Nosy Hoods [Geneva: Dimanche Showroom, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Prismarium [Logroño: Concentrico Architecture and Design Festival, 2020] /// HEAD – Genève & USM Foundation. Space Duality [Red Dot Winner 2020, Frame Awards 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Ignacio Hornillos. Large Kiosk [Geneva, 2019] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko. Scènes de Nuit. Nocturnal Exhibition at f’ar Lausanne [Lausanne: forum d’architectures, 2019] /// BOOKS ////// Javier F. Contreras, Roberto Zancan, eds. Intimacy Exposed: Toilet, Bathroom, Restroom [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing / Leipzig: Spector Books, 2023] Javier F. Contreras. Manifiesto de Interiores [Barcelona: Puente Editores, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, and Manon Portera, eds. Scènes de Nuit. Night & Architecture [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing / Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles [New York: Applied Research + Design Publishing, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Arjen Oosterman, and Lilet Breddels, eds. Herbarium of Interiors. HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras. Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio. Sistema Diédrico en Enric Miralles [Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2018] /// ESSAYS /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Croquis Night: Excursus into Nocturnal Obliteration in Architectural Media” Interiority. Vol 4 No. 2 (2021): 181-190. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions in the Architecture of Marie-José Van Hee” In Marie-José Van Hee Architecten: More Home, More Garden, edited by Hilde Peleman, and Katrien Vandermarliere [Ghent: Copyright Slow Publishing, 2019], 217-229. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Différences de Perception: Le Chablais Lémanique” In Prises de vue. Un paradigme pour l’observation du paysage, edited by Michael Jakob [Geneva: Métis Presses, 2019], 129-146. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions: Marie-José Van Hee’s House Declercq” BITACORA Arquitectura no. 39 (2018): 134-139. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Dibujo y Repetición: Presencia Manual de Enric Miralles en la Planta del Ayuntamiento de Utrecht” RA Revista de Arquitectura no. 19 (2017): 97-104. /// Javier F. Contreras, and José María Sánchez García. “Concentration as Program, Emptiness as Flexibility: an Idea of Space” In Passion for the Built Environment (Perspectives in Metropolitan Research no. 2), edited by Gesa Ziemer [Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2016], 98-106. /// Javier F. Contreras. “La Tectónica de lo Aéreo: Enric Miralles y la Vicisitud de lo Climático” ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism no. 4 (2015): 22-35. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Plan Libre vs. Plan Miralles” In Massilia 2011. Annuaire d’études Corbuséennes, edited by Josep Quetglas [Paris-Marseille: Fondation Le Corbusier, Editions Imbernon, 2011], 82-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Océanos de Arena, Ciudades del Petróleo” Revista Arquitectura no. 361 (Autumn 2010): 88-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Organicismo Expandido” CIRCO no. 153. Madrid: M.R.T. Coop, 2009. /// Javier F. Contreras, Gabriel N. Duarte, and Roberto Gª Caballero. “It’s Not Just Grass! Subverting Legal Planning and the Reinvention of the Dutch Process-Landscape Agenda 2000 & the C2751” In 306090 vol.8, Autonomous Urbanism, edited by Alex Duval, and Kjersti Monson [New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005], 21-30. /// INTERVIEWS /// “Depuis Rue Las Cases. A Conversation with India Mahdavi” Interview by Javier F. Contreras. In India Mahdavi, edited by Chronicle Chroma [Los Angeles: Chronicle Books, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, and Graeme Brooker. “The Future is Interior and Interiorised” Interview by Marco Costantini, and Claire Favre Maxwell. RADDAR no. 2 (2020), 192-213. /// Irma Boom. “Within Pages, Beyond Books” Interview by Javier F. Contreras, and Lilet Breddels. In Herbarium of Interiors, edited by J. F. Contreras, Y. Kravtchenko, A. Oosterman, L. Breddels [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020], 42-47. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Architecture d’intérieur. Espace et Communication” Interview by Nic Ulmi. In IN MY HEAD, edited by Julie E. Julliard [Geneva: HEAD – Genève, 2020], 240-243. /// Jean-Pierre Greff, and Javier F. Contreras. “Dialogue sur l’enseignement de l’architecture d’intérieur” Interview by Roberto Zancan. In L’architecture par l’intérieur, edited by Roberto Zancan [Geneva: MetisPresses, 2018], 185-205.
Javier Fernández Contreras (Dipl. ETSAM 2006, PhD 2013) is a Geneva-based architect, design theorist, and the Dean of the Department of Space Design at HEAD – Genève. His work explores the relationship between architecture, representation and media, with a specific focus on the role of interiors in the construction of contemporaneity. Contreras is the director of several BA, MA and research programs, including MAIA (Master of Arts in Interior Architecture) and Scènes de Nuit, a research platform investigating the entanglements between night and architecture. He is the author of the books Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio (2018), The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles (2020), Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media (2021), and co-editor of Scènes de Nuit: Night & Architecture (2021). His critical essays have been published in numerous books and specialised journals, including Marie-José Van Hee Architecten, Massilia Annuaire des Études Corbuséennes, Drawing Matter, India Mahdavi, RA Revista de Arquitectura, RADDAR, and Plan Libre. Contreras is a regular contributor to professional debates, international juries and conferences. His work has earned him prizes in various international competitions, including the Concentrico Design Festival 2020, f’ar Lausanne 2019, and several editions of Europan. His recent projects and distinctions with HEAD – Genève include Train Zug Treno Tren, the opening exhibition at MUDAC Lausanne in 2022; the invitation to the 2021 Seoul Architecture Biennale for the Circa Diem project (in collaboration with the EPFL); the Brands and Communication Red Dot Award 2020 and the Innovation Frame Award 2020 for the Space Duality project; as well as a Design Prize Switzerland 2019 nomination for the #Looslab project.
This website is an index of selected projects and writings.