August 29, 2009

Francisco del Rio Cuenca, Casa de las Conchas/Shell decorated house



picture from a touristic website (no longer extant) 

The story is, that one day in a street of the spanish city of Montoro a truck lost a load of shells. It would have been laying there for some time, if not someone living nearby had got the idea that this mess could be recuperated into an art environment.

Life and work

Francisco del Rio Cuenca (1926-2010) was that man living nearby. It was 1960 and recuperating a truck load of shells became a lifetime project, that kept del Rio Cuenca active for the rest of his life.


this picture an the next one 
courtesy of el jardin de jacinta (Flickr, 2008)

He has decorated the outside walls of the house, all three patio's and most of the interior, arranging the shells in colorful patterns, or assembling them into texts with information about who made this environment and when.


In 2008, when Francisco del Rio Cuenca was 82, he had reached the limits of what the house could bear in terms of decoration (reportedly he has processed some 115 million shells). But his creativity had no limits and the local authorities gave him permission to continue his decorative activity on a public plot in the vicinity of his home.

His creative activity was appreciated by the people of Montoro and there a lot of people around who supported the project by providing shells.

The house became a touristic must see, sometimes called the "seventh wonder of Cordoba".

Actual  situation
Del Rio Cuenca died in 2010 and since then a grandson takes care of the house and welcomes visitors. As far a I know no decision by public authorities has been made about ensuring the future of the site.

Autumn 2013 the house has been offered for sale by Del Rio Cuenco's heirs.

Documentation
* A scholarly review of the site and its author in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. ISBN 978-0-615-78565-3.
* A video on Elmundo.es, published july 2008


first published aug 2009, revised aug 2012, oct 2013

Francisco del Rio Cuenca
Casa de las Conchas
Montoro, Cordoba, Andalucía, Spain
can be visited on appointment

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