On the Cover: Aperture’s “House & Home” Issue
They called it the “tattooed villa.” In 1950, Jean Cocteau began to draw mythological frescoes on the walls of Villa Santo Sospir, a home on the French Riviera, where he was visiting the socialite Francine Weisweiller. For twelve years, he “tattooed” the house with charismatic images of unicorns, a sleeping Dionysus, and Pan, the god of fields and shepherds. “Matisse told me that if you decorate one wall, you should do the others as well,” Cocteau said. But by 2018, when the Brazilian photographer Mauro Restiffe was invited to document the house, the frescoes were deteriorating.
“These aren’t the glossy, presentational kind of photographs of the house you’ll find in home-and-garden magazines; they ask us to see the drawings as more than home décor,” Lauren Elkin notes of Restiffe’s series Santo Sospir (2018) in Aperture magazine’s “House & Home” issue. Restiffe stayed in the house alone for a week, finding unexpected angles and surprising details. “My approach is to get into the textures of places,” he says. “I want to give more warmth to architecture, to offer traces of human life.”
Just as photographers have trained their lenses on the built environment, architects have equally been drawn to photography. In this issue, four visionary architects—David Adjaye, Denise Scott Brown, Frida Escobedo, and Annabelle Selldorf—discuss how they conceive of homes, civic spaces, and the fabric of our cities. “Photography is not just images of places,” says Adjaye, whose own Instagram “sketchbook” is a lesson in looking at buildings and thinking through urbanism. It is “a whole set of information that really captures the narrative about a time, or a place, or a form . . . or even just a sensation.”
From Seher Shah and Randhir Singh’s abstracted cyanotypes of the brutalist geometries of London’s Barbican Estate, to Ezra Stoller’s luminous images of mid-century modern designs and Robert Adams’s austere suburban interiors, “House & Home” considers how artists are more interested in interpreting than rendering buildings: They go beyond converting three-dimensional form into two-dimensional surface. They also tell us something about the nature of change. Restiffe’s photographs “capture our moment,” Elkin adds. “They record not only Cocteau’s work, but the work of time.”