Demolishing a house to start a new building from the ground up is not always an option — nor should it be. Heritage zones and historic preservation laws help preserve the physical history of the world, and that’s something we should fight for at every opportunity. Not to worry: this is not as stuffy, simple, boring or conventional a philosophy as it may first sound. The layers that emerge with combined two-part, cross-generation construction on a single site can be far more sublime than some all-at-once home plans – though whether this is taken too far in any individual case is up for discussion.
Working with history-rich properties does not necessarily mean fixed and inflexible limits on new and creative design – simple, boring or conventional approaches are not part of the mandate, even for architects like those at JCBA who want to stay within the spirit as well as the letter of historic preservation laws without catering simply to old-fashioned styles.
In reality, nearly any architect or designer will tell you have having guidelines, restrictions and/or rules can actually help begin the design process – and the result of contrasting old and new structures can even make it easier to create engaging spaces. Combinations of material types and ages make for a richer and more complex series of spatial experiences, with some zones that are distinctly modern, some naturally antique and other places where opposites intersect.
Of course, architecture is about more than just design-as-aesthetics and the visual fit of a structure to its surroundings – actually being able to live comfortably in a place is at the core of any successful architectural design. This house succeeds on that metric as well, with dynamic-but-livable spaces and clever material distinctions that make old and new as recognizably different on the interior as they are on the exterior of the hybrid home.