by Devanshi ShahJul 15, 2020
It would not be an exaggeration to say that for a while now we are going to experience the world from COVID-tinted glasses. Since the onset of the current pandemic, the comparison with Spanish flu of the 20th century seemed inevitable. Not making a deviation, let’s say the two extremes – nihilistic and optimistic - very much prevalent during Spanish flu, have not failed to find routes in the present times of the pandemic. Seemingly human tendency runs between these binaries; if the Dadaist artists were sceptical of the utopian world, on the other side of the spectrum one set of the artists’ community was thriving to create a better world. The architect Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany, appealed to follow a minimalistic approach towards designing, what many historians believed was a response to the effects of Spanish flu. In a similar vein, the Moscow-based siblings Davit and Mary Jilavyan, following a sanguine impulse, during the period of lockdown to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, created an imaginary Sonora Art Village community. The bright colours of the buildings punctuated with cactus and pools create a sense of ecstasy.
Breaking away from the environment of a soaring pandemic where everything seems to be enveloped in a passive atmosphere, Sonora Art Village pays a lesser emphasis on the accuracy of geometrical figures in an effort to serve as a getaway from grim reality. In an interview with STIR, Mary Jilavyan says, “Sonora Art Village is an explosion of our emotions, it is what we lack in reality. We wanted to create a place where people can come and feel for a while in a completely different place, far from the grey reality, to feel in some bright 3D space or even a cartoon. It's a place free from prejudice. There's no place for racism, sexism, humiliation. We tried to create a completely different atmosphere that would exude joy, love, happiness”.
The idea for the project was conceived when a friend of the duo from Mexico requested them to design a richly coloured family residence. Davit, an architect and a visualiser, collaborated with his sister Mary, a 3D designer, to create digital images of Sonora Art Village community, giving minute detailing to the arches, passageways, steps and even snaky pathways. Inspired by the great masters of architecture - Ricardo Bofill and Luis Barragan - Mary declares, “Their buildings are still very relevant, people take photos of them, shoot in the movies, do something similar using some elements, and we are among them. This is not just ordinary architecture, but a work of art”. The bold finishes of the houses, sprawling vegetation and flowerbeds stand in contrast to the arid lands and sprouting cactus ubiquitous to the geographical conditions of Mexico. For the duo, “Every house is like a sculpture. We do not put ourselves in line with these masters in any way, but in the name of the project Sonora Art Village we wanted to show that our project is not just guest houses, but an art”.
If the project could widen the horizon of creative imagination for the viewers, the artists confess it is reassuring, “We are very pleased when people tell us how they got inspired by our projects. Someone may see something close to him, someone will not like it, someone will find inspiration in this to create something of their own, perhaps this is what creativity should do”.
The final fruition of the project as a perfect collaboration between the architect and designer could be perceived as a healthy mix of the best of both the worlds. Mary, however, states, “To be honest, we do not believe that it is necessary to be an architect or designer to be able to correctly express a creative thought, we believe that the main thing is to have a sense of taste. Rather, architecture education simply helps to steer an idea in the right direction”.
The project Sonora Art Village by the duo has affirmed looking for a silver lining in the dark cloud may seem tough to achieve but does not imply it is entirely improbable.