PRINT December 1980


Originating in England where they were first called “Mummery,” masques generally lacked story action, crisis or ending.

A Retreat—House—Masque (the third house in a Trilogy of Masques) is for one inhabitant; it is located in a plain overlooking the sea (south) and the hills (north). A wheat field separates the house (rural) from the northern hills and a pool of water separates the house from the southern sea. (The first two houses in the Trilogy are Geometry—House—Masque and Theater—House—Masque.)

This rural masque is for a single inhabitant (in retreat). It has to do with the isolation of anticipated function. This is so throughout the masque: for example, when sitting in the black chair the inhabitant is looking at the diving board, that is, at an anticipated function.

The building is constructed of wood columns, wood beams, wood flooring, wood siding, metal connectors and metal elements.

The Plan and Other Necessities
The floor plan is approximately 24 by 24 feet; the prime wood structural elements 8 feet on center. A 6-by-12-by-8-foot metal enclosure capable of moving up and down on a hydraulic shaft is located in front of the north elevation. A vertical periscope, a horizontal viewer, a metal ladder and a metal cube are incorporated in and on the metal container. Entry into the container is through the roof.

A 6-by-6-by-32-foot wood tower (with a metal circular stair inside the tower) penetrates the masque. The plan supports a chair (black), a diving board (terra cotta), a day desk and chair (orange), a night desk and chair (mauve), a sleeping element (purple), an eating element (olive green), a sink/cooking element (yellow), a fire element (red), and an ablutions element (blue).

A wood platform suspended between the vertical wood tower and the vertical wall is the place of retreat.

Mask (mask), sb.2 1534. [-Fr. masque-It. maschera, perh.- Arab. maskara buffoon, f. sakira ridicule.] 1. a. A covering, usually of velvet or silk (with eye-holes), worn to conceal the face at balls, masquerades, etc. b. A screen of wire, gauze, etc. worn on the face for protection 1591. c. Antiq. The hollow figure of a human head worn by ancient Greek and Roman actors, 1705. d. A likeness of a person’s face in clay, wax, etc. esp. one made by taking a mould from the face itself. Also death-m. 1780. e. A grotesque representation of a face worn on festive and other occasions, to produce a humorous or terrifying effect 1837. 2. fig. a. A cloak, disguise, pretence 1577. b. Something which covers or hides from view 1752. 3. A masked person 1580. 4. In techn. uses (see below) 1731.

Masque (mask). 1514. [orig. the same wd. as MASK sb.2; now differentiated.] 1. A masquerade, masked ball. [So in Fr.] Now rare 2. A form of amateur histrionic entertainment, originally consisting of dancing and acting in dumb show, the performers being masked; afterwards including dialogue and song 1562. Also transf. and fig. 3. A dramatic composition for this kind of entertainment 1605.† 4. A set of masquers-1625. . . . 4.a. Arch., etc. A (grotesque) head or face in stone, used in panels, keystones of arches, etc.; also, in metal on a shield. Also, a kind of corbel the shadow of which is like a man’s profile. 1731. . . . c. Fortif. A screen to protect men working, to conceal a battery, etc.; also, a casemated redoubt serving as a counterguard to the caponier. . . . e. Photogr. A piece of opaque paper used to cover any part of a negative, lanternslide, or print which it is desired to obscure or shade 1876.
Oxford English Dictionary

John Hejduk is Dean of the School of Architecture at Cooper Union.