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Francisco del Rio Cuenca, Casa de las Conchas (“House of Shells”)

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Visitors are welcomed with the payment of a small fee.

About the Artist/Site

In 1957, after a truck accidentally dumped thousands of scallops near his inland home in Montoro (Córdoba), Spain, Francisco del Rio Cuenca decided to pick them up, thinking he might make use of them some day. Riding back and forth on his motorcycle over the next two years, he brought hundreds of bags of scallops from the accident site to where he was building his small two-story home. In 1960, soon after construction was finished, he began ornamenting the façade of the house with shells, thinking this would enable him to avoid the annual drudgery of whitewashing it. It wasn’t less work, he conceded, but at least it only had to be done once. When he completed that task, however, he continued on, and began covering the interior walls as well as the ceilings, stairs, flowerpots, and even the trees behind the house with shells—creating a baroque bas-relief incrustation of movement and texture throughout. Pushing back beyond the footprint of the house to create a series of three interconnecting patios behind, each eked out one by one from the barren terrain, he ornamented each surface of each one, with layers upon layers of embellishment. His property now boasts over 116 million shells, many received as gifts from visitors. A fieldworker who can barely read or write, del Rio built his environment single-handedly and without financial help, but the municipality now recognizes his creation as a tourist attraction. Although del Rio put his property up for sale in 2009, as of the date of this writing (2011) it had not yet been purchased, and visitors are welcomed with the payment of a small fee. Del Rio hopes that the purchaser will maintain the house as a museum.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Montoro, Andalucía, Spain
Latitude/Longitude: 38.025881 / -4.3825

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Visitors are welcomed with the payment of a small fee.

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