Architecture could be defined as a collector of memories, a jewel box where some of the most precious episodes of people’s lives occur. A linear understanding of time would imply that the act of thinking about the present would make it already part of the past, and in consequence, the future could never exist as reality. Questioning the conventional understanding of Time divided into Past, Present, and Future allowed us to think about the project as if the Present were the only real interpretation of time. As a result, Past and Future are contained within it. We never had any aspirations of proving this philosophically, but this conception of Time, in this particular case, allowed us to understand the project in a liberating way.
A careful balance between a series of characteristics of the house that were to be preserved and those that could easily absorb more drastic changes was clearly delineated from the very beginning of the design process. Through close collaboration with the Bauherr and other members of the family the project was synthesized into a number of tangible operations. From street to garden they could be enumerated as follows:
Maintaining a quiet presence on Weissensteinstrasse.
Weissensteinstrasse is a quaint street in the Bruderholz neighborhood in Basel, mainly composed of three story homes and opulent vegetation. There is nothing more remarkable about this corner of the world than its peacefulness and consistency. Our aim was to interrupt as minimally as possible the natural visual flow of the street, while achieving three unpostponable necessities: upgrading the fenestration and insulation of the walls and roof to contemporary standards, increasing the sizes of windows to accompany new demands for natural light and programmatic relocations inside, and adding a dormer window to accommodate a new bathroom and bedroom in the attic.
Redefining the distribution core.
Moving the bathroom on the first floor from its location along the street façade, extended the use of a simple space of movement and transition, into a place of pause. The new larger window on the first floor, the skylight, and the porous bookshelf bring more light into the most public area of the house. The Oak bookshelf accompanies the vertical lines of the original staircase and defines a space that could be considered the new “heart” of the house.
Sometimes it is more interesting to preserve than to change.
Certain spaces of the house reached quasi “sacred” status, particularly a room referred to as “el cuarto del Abuelo”; more often than expected Spanish was the common language in the “meetings”. Memories are often associated with a place. Disturbing it may, in turn destroy the possibility of such memories being present. In contrast, preserving its physical and material characteristics could arguably preserve immaterial aspects associated with such place. This room might be the clearest example of our intention of collapsing Past, Future and Present within the walls of the house.
Establishing a more direct relationship with the garden.
On the east side of the parcel, a 20m long garden invites the morning sun to illuminate the house. The original building presented a relatively closed façade. Interior and exterior spaces did not benefit from each other; they seem to have been conceived as separate entities. In our intervention, and contrarily to the passive attitude offered toward Weissensteinstrasse, we decided to open the façade as much as possible. The main living space in the ground floor could be understood as part of the garden, and vice versa. The wall separating the main living space from the kitchen and entry hall is finished with Black Ofram panels. Conceptually this wall belongs to the world of trees and nature, it just happens to be inside. On the first floor a similar condition is achieved with the only difference that the existing balcony mediates between Master Bedroom and garden.