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Travel Notes, Ettore Sottsass

Between Madras and Mahabalipuram, India, 1987. Photograph by E.Sottsass

In all the places I’ve been to I have felt that someone there was designing houses, just as in a wood you can feel the presence of mushrooms. In all the places I’ve been to I have felt or understood that somewhere round about someone was there designing houses, someone who desperately wanted to design and maybe also to build a house. Somehow, even if I was travelling around in a big hurry in some taxi to get about more quickly and even if I had — like an idiot — a camera hanging round my neck to look more quickly, it was clear that in every place there was someone designing houses: very careful people.

I naturally understood that these designers of houses were there hidden somewhere from the fact that there were houses and from the fact that the houses which I found were — in fact — designed and not just any house; they were not undesigned houses like the ones sometimes done by architects who are specialists and who sometimes don’t design houses but design speciality, in other words architecture…

I think that architects sometimes don’t design houses but ideas that can be had of how to design a house and then they design the ideas about how to design the ideas to be used to design a house, which is a bit like what happens to me here in India where I am at the moment, where they don’t leave me alone because everybody keeps telling me what to do to live happily: they tell me how I must eat, how I must breathe, how I must keep my back straight, they tell me when to go to bed, when to wake up and things like that and sometimes they also tell me how to address myself to the unknown.

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