The aquarium is so blue, so lunar;
Infinite windows open onto which gardens?
Mirror of eternity whose sky is the backing tin.
How far deepens this visionary water,
And to which deepness does it go prolonging
Its blue ventilated by silver shivers?
It's like a hothouse atmosphere in bloom...
From time to time, in the silence, the water is embroidered,
By the passage of a slow fish
Who comes oblique, leaves, melts, becomes fluid;
Charcoal quickly erased on the screen becomes vacant,
An etching of a drawing stillborn on fabric.
Poem of Georges Rodenbach from Les vies encloses (1896) (source: Project Gutenberg)
Nicolas Dorval-Bory and Raphaël Bétillon's recent installation in Toulouse, France invokes a poetic and theoretical kind of space. Cleverly absorbing the paradigm of Diller Scofidio and Renfro's Blur Building, the architects, also realizing meteorological concepts of Philippe Rahm, have carried out a strong and spirited case for what Toyo Ito has called, "the essential contradiction that may be perceived in the format of architecture," or "an interior that equates to an exterior."
In order to achieve such an architecture, Dorval-Bory and Bétillon have not concentrated on static elements or fixed products, but processes which embody the realness of sensuality and ecology. Plants, nourished by a fine mist, grow in a spectrum of air temperatures from 19 to 25˚C and are picked up by visitors who, roaming, may replant them in a new habitat.
The "exterior" suggested by Ito is not the static opposite of the well-known "interior" of conventional architecture (a subject-object relationship of in-here and out-there), but a charged, dynamic and primal setting. The modern approach of architecture is to encapsulate this setting, to domesticate it--yet in doing so, the dynamism and primordiality vanish. The domesticated interior of Dorval-Bory and Bétillon's Paysages en Exil, however, conserves these essential qualities of the exterior. It is an optimistic outlook: the great outdoors can once again be colonized without at once denaturing it.