Habitat hidroespacial, maqueta N / Hydrospatial Habitat, Model N, 1954
Gyula Kosice, Argentinean, 1924–2016
Ink on paper
Overall: 19 1/2 × 18 3/8 × 1 1/2 in. (49.5 × 46.7 × 3.8 cm)
Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund
Habits of Mind
- COMMUNICATE Verbalize ideas, thoughts, feelings / ask provocative questions / ask for support
- SYNTHESIZE Analyze and synthesize relationships and information / compare and contrast / understand the micro and macro implications
Habitat Hidroespacial, Maqueta N (ELA)
Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.
- Synthesize information from two genres to create new understanding
- Make connections to ideas in other texts, and society
- Compare and contrast several belief systems
Connecting to the Work of Art
Gyula Kosice’s drawing depicts a series of stacked circles connected by three thin calendrical towers. A large horizontal platform creates a bridge linking the two outermost towers flanking the structure. Silhouettes of human figures traverse the space. The people appear to be miniature in comparison to the grand scale of the imagined structure that they are inhabiting. The emptiness of the blank paper serves as the background for Kosice’s envisioned habitat; it is suspended in space, rather than limited by gravity.
This drawing is part of a series of models (maquestas) that Kosice created for the ambitious and long-running project, The Hydrospatial City (la ciudad hidroespacial). Kosice first conceived of the project in 1946 with the publication of the Madi Manifesto, which posed that architecture should be created by forms and habitats suspended in space. Kosice was a charter member of the Madí Movement, which was established by a group of artists in Buenos Aires seeking to break from older forms in favor of invention by experimenting with new materials and concepts. Developing on the principles of this movement, Kosice created a series of ink drawings as models for the hydrospatial habitats that he would later fabricate as three dimensional forms using innovated materials such as acrylic, Plexiglas, and light. When the artist completed the grand project in 1971, it consisted of nineteen three-dimensional space habitats and seven two-dimensional light boxes coming together in an immersive, single-room installation.
Kosice described this utopian city as an alternative to Earth when, in the future, the planet’s food and its waters become contaminated resulting from the “persistent geographical and geological depredation.” Kosice’s The Hydrospatial City Manifesto (Manifesto La Ciudad Hidroespacial) from 1971 proposed:
“These are the many incentives for the radical changes we already anticipated as a biological necessity. We specifically propose the construction of the human habitat, actually occupying space at a height of a thousand and five hundred meters, in cities conceived of ad-hoc with a previous feeling of co-existence and a differentiated 'modus vivendi.’ Architecture has depended on the soil and the laws of gravity. These laws can be used scientifically so that hydro-spatial housing can be a reality, that is, viable from a technological point of view."
Kosice created his body of work in Argentina; however, he adopted his artist’s name as Gyula Kosice in place of his birth name, Ferdinand Fallik, as a reference to his place of birth in Kosice (in current day Slovakia). The first exhibition of the Hydrospatial City was held in 1971 in the important gallery Bonino in Buenos Aires. The work received interest among both artistic and scientific circles in Buenos Aires. The Planetarium of the City of Buenos Aires (Planetario de la Ciudad de Buenas Aires) exhibited The Hydrospatial City in 1979, and the accompanying catalogue described Kosice’s work as “the manifestation of the human need to colonize space” [una manifestación de la necesidad humana de colonizar el espacio]. In 2009, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston acquired Kosice’s Hydrospatial City (object numbers 2009.29.1-.26), which was purchased from the artist along with his drawings for the project. Although many of the individual components have been exhibited in the past, the MFAH is the only museum in the world to house the complete La ciudad hidroespacial, a fascinating and poetic discourse on the intelligent relationship between civilization and community in the near future.
Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking, and be careful about making assumptions.
- What shapes do you observe in the drawing? How are they connected? How do the figures depicted in the drawing move through these objects and spaces?
- Describe the scale of figures, objects, and spaces in this drawing. If you were to create a three dimensional object based on the drawing, what would it look like? How would you represent the relative scale shown in the drawing?
- Read the excerpt from Kosice’s The Hydrospatial City Manifesto. How does this drawing relate to the concepts described in the manifesto? What technologies do you think would be needed to support the habitat envisioned in Kosice’s drawing?
- Like Kosice, imagine your ideal habitat or place to live. What would it look like? What materials would you use? Where would the setting or geography for this place exist? How does your imagined utopia compare with Kosice’s vision of an ideal city?
Connecting to the Classroom
- How do we formulate ideas about our society?
- How can we encourage students who have not taken an art class or have no interest in art to draw an illustration?
- Because this image is so open to interpretation, communicating ideas will require specific vocabulary, inference, and evidence in order to explain ideas.
- This image also fosters many questions which promotes further discussion/communication.
- Writing extends the communication skills in a different manner. How do you define current society, explain how a class system might hinder progress, or propose a better way to change/build a society?
- Comparing/contrasting the societal concepts of the art/artist and of the science fiction text/author.
- Artistically illustrating literary themes.
Subject Matter Connection
Discuss the work of art using Conversation Starters.
How does Kosice’s Hidroespacial, Maqueta N reflect elements found in most science fiction texts?
Science fiction settings are mainly futuristic (some are set in early historic settings, prehistoric). But the texts ironically carry a purpose of asking the reader to question current society. Discuss this idea in conjunction with the work of art; reference specific examples of science fiction texts.
Ask students to respond in writing to the following prompt(s):
- How would you define the myth of our current society and how does that compare to the reality of our current society?
- Compare/contrast the beliefs of the science fiction author with the tenets of the Madí movement.
- Include an illustration which architecturally exemplifies your definitions/ideas or one of the science fiction author’s themes.
Resources Available to Order
The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.
The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.