The House of Leaves

September 2010
BAO office | Caochangdi village, CN

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interior and furniture design ::  NAIHANLI & Co.

In fact, it all starts with a leak.

Giuliana Bruno, Public Intimacy – Architecture and the Visual Arts

The House of Leaves is a three-story red brick building covering 560 sqm that comprises a private (or semi-private) apartment on its top floor, a working station (BAO office) on the second floor and a large public living room.

The house as an intimate image is ultimately an impossible space. It is a reeling archive of processes that keep on changing and being drawn towards the irrationality of depths and new beginnings, deprived, as it becomes, of the certainty of relative topography. In intimate spaces things are imagined and set in motion in timeless interiors, they are stretched between memory and anticipation, between the idlesse of thoughts and the intentionality of objects, bound to the dual function of reality and unreality. So of change and new beginnings. Or of meaningful in-betweenness.

We move back to where we were. Things have changed, the village has changed. It has gone from [chǎng, cháng] – an open field, a generic space, a place of gathering, to [chǎng] – a workshop, a factory, a place of productive purpose. At least, the new signage off the fifth ring road says so. Caochangdi, once dark and subterranean, is now well lit and architecturally sound.

Somewhere between those two signs dwells an image of poetic comfort, an emotional retreat. On one side the open-endedness and idleness of freeplay — that primordial function of inhabiting that separates us from both past and reality, where things and time can be squandered, undone, dissipated; on the other, a site of function, a place of scheduled objectivity and self-awareness.

The House of Leaves sits amidst said confines. It takes its name from the genre-defining novel written by Mark Z. DANIELEWSKI. A typographically labyrinthine book tiered through multiple narrators and triggered by continuous détournements of filmic narrative, it is designed in an architecture of knowledge that both defines and defies itself. The book is a house, about a movie of a house, whose interior changes unexpectedly further and deeper than its exterior. As it’s been observed, it is impossbile to read The House of Leaves the same way twice. It is meant to be an impossible space, and it should be explored like one. What constitutes and builds throughout the act of reading is ultimately a private space of imaginific derangement where multiple cross-references leak from phrases to extruded paragraphs and page-long footnotes – the actual house arises from within the fractures of its building process.
Seemingly this House of Leaves appears as an architectural analogue of what we have set our practice to be ever since we founded BAO Atelier in 2006.