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Julio Vilamajó Residency: Travelogue 2

Facultad de Ingeniería © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Facultad de Ingeniería
Facultad de Ingeniería © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Facultad de Ingeniería
Meson de las Cañas © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Meson de las Cañas
Moncaut © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Moncaut
Moncaut © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Moncaut
Ventorrillo de la Buena Vista © MATTEO FOGALE

© MATTEO FOGALE

Ventorrillo de la Buena Vista

23 October 2017
by Matteo Fogale

In this latest travelogue from Uruguay, Julio Vilamajó designer in residence Matteo Fogale reports on his second week of visits, surprises and interesting finds, and explains how luckily much of Vilamajó’s work was saved from ruins or from being demolished. 

The Places

My first visit was to ‘Los Claveles’, the house built for Felipe Yriart  in 1927. Now privately owned, the house is a historic monument but the new owner seems to be living mainly abroad and since purchased the house was barely touched, so being able to visit the house was a great opportunity. Monica Nieto, director of Casa Museo Vilamajó was over the moon with the opportunity to visit the house, something she always wanted to do. Also Aníbal Parodi from the Instituto de Diseño at the FADU came along as he last saw the house 20 years ago, so I was no doubt in good company.

Entering it was like visiting a haunted house, not knowing what to find inside. All the blinds where shut and we didn't dare ask to open them, but maybe this made the whole experience even more intriguing. Luckily for us some light switches where still working and if not I used my flash light to brighten up the rooms and incredible details carved in wood, discovering to my surprise, how big the house actually was. I love the smell of old books and wooden furniture and what brightened up the interior of the house was some incredible stained glass windows, apparently recently refurbished by the owner. And I have no words to described the little back garden, it fell like travelling to Morocco!

My second visit was to the Facultad de Ingeniería (Engineering School), a massive building I got lost in. It must be because of the sunny day but the light coming through those windows was amazing. Vilamajó’s famous pre-fabricated concrete window frames always cast beautiful shadows. I loved to see what I believe to be the original fitted furniture, chairs and benches. Walking through the whole space feels like stepping back in time. I love what Vilamajó has done on the facade of this building, he is well known for his functional ornaments but there's no better place to appreciate it than here.

My last visit of the week was to the Moncaut building. A seven-floor corner building built in 1947. Thanks to Monica we managed to visit the penthouse where a lady and her baby happily opened their door to us. Entering the flat feels like being in a ship, with its triangular shape and windows all around one can see most of Montevideo. I loved to see much of the original fitted furniture, some of which I recognised from the drawings I saw at the archives. The beautiful handles on the cupboards and clever storage solutions - Vilamajó seemed to consider every useful space on the walls to store things, hidden behind little wooden doors. All of the kitchen storage was original and it was amazing to see how in 2017 a family is still making good use of it. And a detail that made me laugh was how the couple decided to use one of the doors they removed as a headboard for their bed!

Over the weekend I visited two other places: 'Villa Serrana', a house built in Punta del Este, my hometown, and a little paradise on earth. The house is quite peculiar; I wanted to visit it because it was back where I grew up and I knew Vilamajó had prepared plans to develop the coastal town. But I didn't know much about the house or where it was. I spent hours with my parents around the San Rafael area which I knew was around there. But it wasn't until a childhood friend its exact location as part of a new development that I managed to find it. Saved from being demolished, the developers decided to keep it as a gym and a very big BBQ, of course. 

The house was painted and interiors refurbished but it was nice to see it's still there. Maybe an unusual example of work by Vilamajó, but it still has his special touch and incredible ornaments in concrete you would expect to see.

During the weekend, I had the tremendous pleasure to spend my sunny Sunday in Villa Serrana. Alberto Vignale, the owner of the 'Ventorrillo de la Buena Vista' came to pick me up at the bus station in Minas and we drove up all the way to Villa Serrana, a town planned by Vilamajó, an incredible and magical place in the middle of 'las sierras'. The building, he explains, was completely abandoned and nearly destroyed before he and his wife took it over and started serving local gourmet food and welcoming guests, all with an amazing view. He used to come as a kid to play and do graffiti here. Lovely quotes and articles about the architect are displayed all over the place.

Right bellow the Ventorrillo there's the 'Meson de las Cañas'. One can have some rest and eat nice food here, all in a fully refurbished Vilamajó building. This building apparently was less defaced than the Ventorrillo as it has always been privately owned and it was never really abandoned. Jorge Barreiro, the owner of the 'Meson', showed me all the pictures from the refurbishing works. This place is amazing and I'm definitely going to come back for my holidays. 

The Project

Last but not least, this week I kickstarted my residency project. I've invited seven local design studios to design seven pieces of furniture with me. All inspired by seven drawings I've picked up from the archives. We will start the collaboration by running workshops at Vilamajó’s own studio at the Casa Museo. I had a great first meeting with them and members of Uruguay XXI, Uruguay's international promotion agency, and the British Council. Great plans ahead, so more to come next week!

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