Dom-ino: Archetype and Fiction


Antoine Picon
February 2014
Excerpt from Log 30, Winter 2014

An archetype is not a type. As a generic condition, as a limit, it can inspire very different types of buildings. In this respect, [Maison] Dom-ino is even more archetypal than the 18th-century primitive hut, which was translated mainly to churches that share the same basic features: freestanding columns carrying barrel vaults, with the occasional presence of flying buttresses borrowed from the Gothic tradition. Contrary to this deterministic pattern, Le Corbusier’s scheme represents a more open point of departure leading to results that seem sometimes to drift very far away from their initial source of inspiration. The Guiette House in Antwerp, for example, owes something to Dom-ino despite very different organizational choices that derive more directly from the Citrohan type.

In classical mythology, thresholds, boundaries, and frontiers were inhabited by fabulous creatures like the Sphinx, which guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes. These creatures were usually hybrids, blending features borrowed from diverse living beings, the woman and the lion in the case of the Sphinx. Positioned like those mythological characters on a frontier, on the limit between the nonarchitectural and the architectural regimes, archetypes also merge discrepant features. They can only exist fully as operative fictions that produce effects in the built world while being unsustainable in practice because of the contradictions they conceal.

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