anthology / on-the-architect / evocation / reflection /

Specus Corallii reflection

San Luis Obispo,

Brianna Ruland on her visit to Cardillo’s Specus Corallii project


, ed. Matt Edwards

The warm façade that wears generations of renovation stands sturdy, the crumbling patina’s history blows away, grain by grain, in the salty breezes of Trapani. Nothing is everlasting. Standing in the delicate corridor which is actually the street outside, lined with four story tall multi-use buildings who all match in sandstone and beige walls alike, and position in stark contrast to the blue sky strips peeking through them. It seems all obvious that the grandiose wooden doors are flaunting themselves as the main entrance. Alas, this is not the intended journey, but a reminder of the platter of options always available before us. Paying homage to the route less traveled—further down the building the petite green simple door awaits its discovery. The large old key meets the crevice in the wood, churning time, obscuring expectations as they are left behind. They are not helpful here.

Meeting the chamber behind the green door is like meeting an old friend who you no longer recognize because they have evolved so much since your last encounter. You did not expect to see them here, of all places. Day became night, or something similar. Perception is playing tricks that make you only more curious. Eyes and minds argue gently as they comprehend the surroundings—attempting to categorize, reaching for familiar vocabulary. Concocting a story about vaults and arches, cascading vaults down the corridor, evolving various heights before eyes, or an alternate planet accidentally stumbled upon … but no, there is much more here. The Distilled and Discreet meet for tea inside a cavern to speak like Free Masons, undercover in plain sight. Unable to confide in a clear glossary to compare the immersion to, one surrenders and relaxes, inhaling the tranquility of the indefinite. It simply is. Trusting in the familiarity, however embedded it may be. This space evokes love and loss, nostalgia, melancholy, and life’s most essential inaudible philosophies. Most importantly, this long dark cave can certainly be trusted.

Gravity works well in this space. The teacher here is the heavy silence; an embraced sensation arises amongst the aquamarine enclave of cascading vaults in symmetrical perspective. Everything is brought closer. The pozzolanic ash walls cradle the anthropomorphic form motherly as it floats along down the marble water. Marble water shows the reflection and promise of sunrise, but in a size and distance never witnessed on this planet until now. If travelling to the end of this straight chamber one may imagine there being some place where walking on water halts being possible, sinking down into an underwater emerald cavern in suspended disbelief. Gesturing instead toward one small wooden door on the left; as it opens, sunlight beams momentarily occupy the chamber, reminiscent of how close the Earth still is. Gliding through fresh timber frame, enter a pure bright square, or so it seems. It is a contrasting atmosphere of the curvaceous corridor, everything here contains angles and perfect ratios. Floor and wall material seams prove the symmetrical precision. Even the centered electrical outlets could hold perfect tightropes straight across the warm cavernous stone. Balance lives here.

Balance of the smooth and course, balance of the static and random, as the ceiling becomes a canvas for the refractions of light to play at will. At their various speeds, colors, and intensities, if this were a church—these energetic sporadic paintings would bring believers to their knees. No need for stained glass here. Parting the embrace of the warm void, through a different door than the arrival, now facing the same chamber in the other direction, all appears completely juxtaposed. Metamorphosis of illusion seduces. Night is over. All is bright, coral pink, joyous, relief, light, playful; however, the glimpse of the planet’s moon hangs in the distance. Never waning, never waxing, always full.

Antonino Cardillo, Empty chairs, Specus Corallii, Trapani, 20 Aug. 2016. Photography: Antonino Cardillo

Antonino Cardillo, Specus Corallii, Trapani, 20 Aug. 2016. Photography: Antonino Cardillo

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman


  • Brianna Ruland, Specus Corallii reflection [email], ed. Matt Edwards, San Luis Obispo, 29 March 2018.