Contrast of Old and New

I was chatting with a design colleague this weekend about her dream to buy and renovate a tiny old farmhouse.  I confessed to her my plan to tweak my parents’ new home from a natural building hobbit theme by adding some sharper, contrastingly modern elements.   We got all worked up thinking of ways to slice into a vernacular building and introduce modern materials.   I don’t know if this aesthetic appeals to all designers of our age and stripe or just the two of us particularly but its always been a favorite of mine.

Its perfectly exemplified in this building by Belgian Architects, AABE:

“This is a small outbuilding which has been extended and transformed into a house – now a bed and breakfast. The aim was to introduce steel sheets into the existing structure to create a mezzanine floor; the aim then was to extend these sheets outdoors in order to create a living room enclosed solely in glass which opens out generously into the natural surrounding environment. The architect has taken care to blend the new elements into the existing building. The work carried out has not been to the detriment of the old building. The original heavy and solid features of the old building are still clear for all to see, and these features contrast with the extremely soft touch of the more recent work which has been carried out, the intention of which is obvious: the inclusion of features which create a contrast and which are not a close replication of the existing features. Photographer: Jean-Luc Laloux”

I’ve had this link bookmarked for quite some time and visit it occasionally to appreciate the contrast between the seemingly timeless stone cottage and the sleek clean intervention that AABE performed.  It seems like the best of both worlds to me.  The vernacular construction seems solid and real and grounded in a way that straight up modernism never does to me but it is not practical for contemporary living – no outlets, no refrigerator, no phone line.  Purist modernism, on the other hand, accommodates all the technology one could wish but ends up feeling like a movie set.  I love the balance found in the juxtaposition of the two … especially in this little stone cottage.

One response to “Contrast of Old and New

  1. I too love the grounded feeling of historic architecture, especially structures built to be practical as well as beautiful. But we don’t live in those times, nor do most of us really want to. We would sorely miss the sense of well being we gain from our electronic and hygienic “advancements.”
    Finding the way to blend them that is not jarring is the challenge.

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