Aldo’s Tiny Houses

This short, true story begins with a personal memory and at the end, everyone can continue it.
Childhood memories are made of objects, materials, smells, colors. In one of my best ones, there are some tiny houses for the Nativity scene that Aldo built with cardboard of shoe boxes and then painted with tempera colors.
Trying to relive that feeling again, I built some similar houses my way, using materials that were familiar to me: paper, pencil, squares, colored pencils, glue stick, scissors, magazines.

Aldo’s houses had small lights inside and holes in the walls for windows and doors. This detail recalls another image: my sister and I in the back seats of the car, on Sunday evening, looking at the houses quickly sliding along the way. Each house had its own story, or rather it was a a microcosm, a container of stories. Their attraction was irresistible: it passed through the lighted windows and pressed my face against the car window glass.
All of this could not be missing in my paper houses: a thin thread of lights passed through the windows holes and, if necessary, was adjusted through the roof opening.

But also some innovations have appeared in my remake, like unexpected shadows inside when the lights turn on, plants, animals and roomers, tiny collage details in the outer walls.

There is an inside and an outside in every home:

you can come and go,
much comes out of what is inside, but not everything;

much comes in of what is outside, but not everything,
sometimes it stops at the door and stands there, but nobody opens…

I suddenly recalled this poem by my friend Giusi Quarenghi.

I found them quite nice but too light and even too pleased, with their meticulous engravings: they didn’t look nothing like Aldo’s ones (maybe looking more like “me”?). My disappointment was great…

So what to do? I decided to look for for the original ones and finally, I found some inside a cathode ray tube television, where many years ago Aldo put an anti-cat Nativity scene, reusing some old stuff.

I refound everything was missing in my new houses: a support base, the consistency of the cardboard, a deliberately rough finishing, the naturalness of asymmetry, materiality. I discovered many details, so that I could imagine how his thoughts and hands worked together in the creative process.

So what should a house be like? How is the ideal house? Precise and linear or rough and messy?

What are the most important qualities: transparent, hard outside, soft inside, large, playful, decorated, intimate, peaceful, magical?

Maybe that’s the point: we need different, even opposite qualities, which compensate each other and respond to different needs. Thus, everyone can bring their own qualities to their houses. What are yours? What kind of house will come out from your hands?
Big or small, silent or noisy, wooden or stone’s, stable or mobile, a nest, a cave, a tent, or a “terra cotta” one…

Art work by Monica Grelli (above) and Galit Pagot (below)

The story is over, but could go on. The opening roof of Aldo’s tiny house can turn it into a small box: what will it contain?

Many thanks to my father Aldo for his magical playhouses.
And good luck to the creators of all houses, visible or invisible.

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