HausWork*: week 4
We’re not denying that a brand new building often looks best on the page. But given that a huge chunk of an architect’s workload is spent in dealing with altering and enhancing the past, the fourth and final HausWork talk was devoted to this often overlooked aspect of new design. The capacity crowd was also eager to hear how the existing urban and suburban fabric can be squeezed and tweaked to accommodate the demands of modern life.
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Jonathan Tuckey of Jonathan Tuckey Design spoke first. Having decided to devote his practice to the reinterpretation of existing structures, Tuckey mused as to why such work should be so overlooked. Why not explore the enormous scope the conversion offers for creating exciting hybrid spaces? Tuckey’s own work scores highly on the art of creative compromise, eking out new uses for apparently unusable buildings through a combination of additions and demolitions, all the while striving to retain patina and a sense of history.
In both a warehouse conversion and his own house in north London, formerly a shabby collection of lightless workshops, the modern materials - wood, brick, plaster - reference the original palette, while detailing is industrial and modest. As he pointed out, some 70% of architects’ work is devoted to conversions and extensions; perhaps it’s time more attention was focused on the art of adding to an old building while still retaining a sense of time and place.
Matthias Schmalohr of Schmalohr Architekten took a more confrontational approach with his residential extension in the suburb of Oelde. The Pueblo House is a concrete box containing a self-contained family home, set down next to a typical 1950s house. The exterior walls are stained with red oxide so as to match the terracotta tiles on the surrounding housing, giving the new structure a tough but sympathetic character, not just a house, but a home.
Finally, Adrian Friend of Friend and Company talked about how modern architecture was suffering from a loss of spatial guidance, and how the generosity of the now abandoned Parker Morris Space Standards once created a genuine ‘choreography of space’, all in danger of being lost forever. In remodelling existing structures, Friend argued for a true appreciation of how people live and the space they need.
Friend and Company’s own work - a remodelled Georgian house in Hampstead and the ambitious scheme to redesign the internal circulation of a 1959 Eric Lyons Span House - was an attempt to rediscover this apparently lost art, using honest materials and construction methods to create ‘simple comfort, not luxury comfort’.
These were all thoughtful presentations, pointing the way to practical synergies of new and old that still retained an aesthetic edge.
Our thanks go to Champagne Taittinger, Phaidon, Habitat, Classicon,
http://www.thezetter.com" target="_blank" >The Zetter Hotel and the LFA.