Resurrecting An Old Design Strategy for a New Century

What do you see when you look at the photos here? A restoration? A new house? Or something completely different? And if you answer “something different,” what do you mean by that? – Word choice is so critical to good design.

Most people say that they see a restoration in these photos, and our “before/after” format supports that view. But restoration is a strategy intended for exceptional old buildings, where the goal is to reverse the aging process to reclaim an original architecture. And this classic 1930s bungalow was not an exceptional work of architecture to begin with. Its modesty, low ceilings and flimsy structure all conspired against a restoration.

For this reason, our design must be considered a new house, in the literal sense of the word: every piece brand new. But does that term describe the sense of history it retains, or the connection it seems to have with its antecedent, the original house? No, in fact neither strategy, restoration nor new, offered us a means for telling this story. And our clients had charged us with honoring the history of their property, even as they required us to refit it for the next eighty years. So, from the start, we knew we needed a strategic alternative to the binary handed down to us by modernism.

Kitchen

After much trial and error we returned to an approach that had been popular in the days before founding modernists called for the rejection of all past styles. This approach is called interpretation, and it was well-suited to our needs. To begin with, interpretations are new works that stand on their own as architecture. And yet, interpretations also refer backward in time, to an antecedent, an original. So, it is the tension created between the two, the new and the old, that makes for meaning in an interpretation.

With interpretation in mind, perhaps the design in these photos will appear a little clearer to you, more legible. Remembering that interpretations preserve ideas, instead of materials, you can see that we identified in our original house the idea of a Bungalow, as well as the idea of a Barn, from the studio wing that had been added to it in the 1980s. And, we carried both of these architectural ideas forward in our design, even as the original buildings went into a dumpster. Furthermore, we captured those ideas in architectural languages specific to each. This can most easily be seen in their differing window designs, but also in their massing and roof pitch.

Looking closely, you will also see that our design incorporates a third, more modern, architectural language, one that had no precedent in the original. And this hints at the feature of interpretation that has come to excite us the most: interpretations are set in the present, not the past, and therefore require the architect to take a position about the antecedent today. Interpretations are statements about how the present views the past. And for this reason we were compelled to add an architectural language of our own to this composition, one that would place our design in its own time.

Living Room

You can see this new architectural language in the section that now connects the Bungalow and Barn. It has a flat roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and we call this section the Bridge. It brings a contemporary experience, as well as a contemporary architecture, to this design as it opens the Bungalow and Barn to natural light and garden views in a more modern way. But the addition of this third, contemporary architecture also speaks to a fact that we feel distinguishes the 21st century from the 20th.

Today, at the start of the 21st century, we can see the 20th century with a greater perspective, and the need for reconciling many of its most restrictive ideas with our own views, both of history in general and of the value we put on all architectures of the past.

At this point in time, it would seem a folly for architects to attempt once again to propose a “new architecture” for this century. And yet, if there were to be a “new architecture” for the 21st century perhaps it would look a lot like this project: a composition made up of architectural archetypes that all find greater meaning in their combination than they do in isolation.

"Before and After" Diagram 

For more images on this project, click here

What do you see when you look at the photos here? A restoration? A new house? Or something completely different? And if you answer “something different,” what do you mean by that? – Word choice is so critical to good design.

Most people say that they see a restoration in these photos, and our “before/after” format supports that view. But restoration is a strategy intended for exceptional old buildings, where the goal is to reverse the aging process to reclaim an original architecture. And this classic 1930s bungalow was not an exceptional work of architecture to begin with. Its modesty, low ceilings and flimsy structure all conspired against a restoration.

For this reason, our design must be considered a new house, in the literal sense of the word: every piece brand new. But does that term describe the sense of history it retains, or the connection it seems to have with its antecedent, the original house? No, in fact neither strategy, restoration nor new, offered us a means for telling this story. And our clients had charged us with honoring the history of their property, even as they required us to refit it for the next eighty years. So, from the start, we knew we needed a strategic alternative to the binary handed down to us by modernism.

Kitchen

After much trial and error we returned to an approach that had been popular in the days before founding modernists called for the rejection of all past styles. This approach is called interpretation, and it was well-suited to our needs. To begin with, interpretations are new works that stand on their own as architecture. And yet, interpretations also refer backward in time, to an antecedent, an original. So, it is the tension created between the two, the new and the old, that makes for meaning in an interpretation.

With interpretation in mind, perhaps the design in these photos will appear a little clearer to you, more legible. Remembering that interpretations preserve ideas, instead of materials, you can see that we identified in our original house the idea of a Bungalow, as well as the idea of a Barn, from the studio wing that had been added to it in the 1980s. And, we carried both of these architectural ideas forward in our design, even as the original buildings went into a dumpster. Furthermore, we captured those ideas in architectural languages specific to each. This can most easily be seen in their differing window designs, but also in their massing and roof pitch.

Looking closely, you will also see that our design incorporates a third, more modern, architectural language, one that had no precedent in the original. And this hints at the feature of interpretation that has come to excite us the most: interpretations are set in the present, not the past, and therefore require the architect to take a position about the antecedent today. Interpretations are statements about how the present views the past. And for this reason we were compelled to add an architectural language of our own to this composition, one that would place our design in its own time.

Living Room

You can see this new architectural language in the section that now connects the Bungalow and Barn. It has a flat roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and we call this section the Bridge. It brings a contemporary experience, as well as a contemporary architecture, to this design as it opens the Bungalow and Barn to natural light and garden views in a more modern way. But the addition of this third, contemporary architecture also speaks to a fact that we feel distinguishes the 21st century from the 20th.

Today, at the start of the 21st century, we can see the 20th century with a greater perspective, and the need for reconciling many of its most restrictive ideas with our own views, both of history in general and of the value we put on all architectures of the past.

At this point in time, it would seem a folly for architects to attempt once again to propose a “new architecture” for this century. And yet, if there were to be a “new architecture” for the 21st century perhaps it would look a lot like this project: a composition made up of architectural archetypes that all find greater meaning in their combination than they do in isolation.

"Before and After" Diagram 

For more images on this project, click here