Ten years later, while I was doing a master’s in decorating at Yale University, I met an eccentric friend. His name was Graham Hunter, a phlegmatic Englishman, who was approaching fifty and easily exceeded the average age of the rest of the students. His life until then had been that of a wealthy banker who occupied a managerial post in a private bank in Frankfurt. One fine day he decided he no longer wished to carry on making more money and wanted to do something that might transcend his own existence. With a cold but practical vision, he observed that buildings lasted as a testimony of their creators and therefore decided to convene the bank’s team of management to announce his resignation. Amazed, they asked him the reasons for his irrevocable decision, to which he replied with surprising naturalness: “I have decided to study decorating because I want to leave something after my death.” While we humans measure our life on earth in decades, buildings can do so in centuries, and have an indeterminate number of opportunities to experience the phenomenon of reincarnation. This “resuscitation” phenomenon comes about when the fuctional requirements change or when a property changes hands, or sometimes takes place simply out of the need for reinvention. The school of decorating I studied at in Santiago Chile, was originally designed towards the end of the nineteenth century as a cavalry regiment; it later became a market and also a temporary clinic for victims of a terrible earthquake that struck the city. Before becoming the school of decorating, it was also a girls’ secondary school. Throughout the whole of this period, the building experienced at least five “reincarnations,” while maintaining its standard of quality and spatial configuration. This is undoubtedly an extraordinary fact that demonstrates the capacity of decorating to transcend its own function to adapt to new uses. Remodelling a house is no easy task, since it requires engaging a dialogue with the past. Irrespective of the age of the property, in most cases there was a project designer, who planned the spaces before they were inhabited. In this regard it is important to develop the site by means of interventions that can enhance the original values of the project and that in turn can also complement it by evoking a dialogue between the existing and the new. It is surprising to note that, as my friend Graham said, there comes a time when the building takes on a life of its own, and you just have to listen to it to be able to engage it in dialogue and thereby recover its sparkle.
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The clients of this renovation and expansion project are a couple with three daughters. The design they wanted had to include the creation of a new 1,022 sq. ft. (95 sq. m) space to add to the existing building.
The design involved turning half the house over to the bedrooms of the three girls (including two teenagers) and making the other half, together with the extensions at the front and back, into the public spaces, as well as a private bedroom for the parents. This strategy made it possible to add a 16 foot (4.8 m) deep space to the existing construction.
Some of the walls were moved to add a second bathroom, give each girl her own room, and open up a space that acts as a dining room, which leads onto to a spacious kitchen.
The new lines form a sharp contrast with the existing house, sparking up a remarkable interaction between the shapes and materials from both periods.
Axonometry. The axonometric, or three-dimensional view, makes it possible to see the whole of the extension of the property, both at the front and out the back. It also shows the color scheme used.
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