House in A Coruña, “Chiaroscuro”

What is it?

A residential project completed this year by MAS Arquitectura in A Coruña, Spain. We became aware of it through the excellent architecture blog, Coolboom, though cannot be certain who gave the project its name, either Coolboom or the architects themselves.

What do we think?

The term, Chiaroscuro, has a rich history in the field of fine art, dating back to the late 1500s with the artist, Michelangelo Caravaggio, an extraordinary painter who lived in Rome at the cusp between the Renaissance and Baroque periods. It is a term that refers to powerful constrasts between light (chiaro) and dark (scuro) space, evidenced in Caravaggio’s work by his revolutionary tendency to shroud parts of his paintings in pitch blackness.

One could argue that Chiaroscuro should have its most honest representation in architecture, the artform most interested in the creation of space and the use of light. Despite the undeniable greatness of Caravaggio’s paintings, they are restricted to two dimensions, a limitation from which architecture is fundamentally liberated. Even more reason therefore that we find this project by MAS Arquitectura to fall short of expectations. Rather than use the presence and absence of light to establish contrasting fields of chiaro and scuro, it relies instead on the contrast between coloured surfaces – black joinery against white walls; white furniture on black floors and so on. It is a an easy and somewhat tacky simplification of the true meaning of the term.

To our taste, this project is not that interesting, and is even less so when one’s first contact with it is via its ancient and powerful name.

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