The Schindler House exists in a visitor’s mind as more than one kind of building. We understand it as a house, but also as a museum. In constructing the building and its surroundings, Schindler meant to give the house’s inhabitants a refuge from alienation. The organic surfaces and materials, the spaces that blend inside and outside (and thereby culture and nature), and the intimate scale, all speak to the warm livability of the place.
A house evolves through environmental entropy. The lifestyle of the Schindler House and its inhabitants are no different. The intent to preserve the Schindler House is precisely a fight against entropy in many ways to prevent much of what would make the house habitable. With this intention of preservation, part of the architectural program is negated. The restrictions that preserve the house at a particular moment in time create alienation from the original materials and from the experience of the space in a casual way. The museum by nature cannot let the house be something alive. In this way, the idea of the house and the museum are at odds with one another.
I propose to make two interventions in the house to explore both ideas of the house and the museum, to magnify and alter the experience of the space, and to offer the viewer a platform to resist reading preservation as a neutral act.
1. Visible Darkness/Protective Light
A primary concern of many conservation projects is the damaging effect of light. As a poetic response to that concern, I propose to cover every light and window in the house with ruby-colored gels. This will create a light quality in the house that is the same as the light found in a black-and-white photography darkroom. The ruby color has an optical darkness and will protect the space from exposure. The light installation will also produce an intense sensory experience that transforms the space from a house to an artistic spectacle within which a person could not comfortably live.
2. A Gift
A primary purpose for any home is to join people through love, sharing, and kindness. This kindness is often expressed through sharing food. I will represent communion in this way through offering a gift of an apple tree to the people who live at, work at, and visit the Schindler House. The apple tree will be planted in the Schindler courtyard. The apple is symbolic of giving, of life, and of course, of the loss of innocence. The gift of the apple tree is meant to underscore the Schindler House as a domestic space. The gift is also understood as an intrusion on the house preservation as a fixed site that doesn’t evolve.
I hope the intended perversity of both of these gestures is clear. I recognize the aggression of both of these ostensibly caring interventions. I find the conflict between the house and museum fraught, and intend this proposal to offer a public platform to consider the intentions of preservation at the Schindler House.