Interior between remodeling and remnants

NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov
NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov

A ghost roams the world. The spectrum of unfinished design. It is a way of regenerating the millions of abandoned spaces found in all areas of the planet that I have defined as “remnants”, “remnants”. It combines design, art, scenography, exhibition design, cinema. Unlike the building renovation project, it prefers to take the elements of decay present inremains. Gift in the sense that in his famous essay he attributes to him Marcel Mauss, that is, as something that is given and must be reciprocated. And which in archaic societies does not represent a free practice but a social obligation. The project of remains in this sense, it acquires the more general value of experimentation in a frontier discipline, the aim of which is to devise a “new aesthetic,” through the introduction of entities of a predominantly set-up type. When one thinks of Michelangelo, it can be defined unfinished designa perspective to give the environments to be regenerated, regardless of their new function, a hospitable character and at the same time representative of the conditions in provisionality, precariousness, transculturality, typical of the present. Refugees for the neo-nomads of the third millennium. It’s not a fashion or a style. It is a style of thinking, an ethical attitude as well as an aesthetic one that is interested in the deposition of memory that these places scattered around the world hold and that would otherwise risk being lost.
I talked about it in an earlier text in this magazine, I wrote about it in the January monographic issue of the magazine Examples of architecture, dedicated to the theme “Recompose the fragments. Destructions, reconstructions, transformations”. In which I mentioned the case of the recycling project of a former cement factory in Barcelona, ​​to which Ricardo Bofil, who died quite recently, he began working in 1973 to create his own studio and home. And it can pose a paradigm that predicts a new sensitivity to the way of intervening in abandoned environments in the contemporary city. A way that assumes the state they are in, as a resource, a material from which one can begin to develop, also through transformations spread over time, a new aesthetic, as Bofil himself tells.

NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov
NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov

DESIGN WITH STARTER

In recent years, there are more and more examples of interventions that can be included in this family of design approach. It is not yet an explicit endorsement of a common platform of intent, but rather a sign of a change in the cultural climate of the last decade towards these places. So much so that it also creates interest in the media and advertising world. Just think of how they are increasingly used as backdrops for filming or musical performances – from Assassin’s Club to the video of Warrior sung by Marco Mengoni – and how the use of leftovers has become an exercise in haute cuisine. Or the testimony of the need that the clients themselves share make more sensible use of resources and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. The same Lacaton and Vassal, Pritzker Prize 2021, appeals to the need to take a “frugal” view as designers and to avoid, as far as possible, interventions involving the demolition of the existing: “Demolition is a waste of many things, a waste of energy, a waste of material and a waste of history. However, we can begin to make an initial study of some paradigmatic cases that are representative of a phenomenon that seems to be more and more prevalent from the 1910s. Something that happened in the art world at the end of the last century and that Nicolas Bourriaud he defined “relational art”.

Paulo Moreira, A Sandeira, Café, Porto, 2013. Photo Inês Guedes
Paulo Moreira, A Sandeira, Café, Porto, 2013. Photo Inês Guedes

EXAMPLE OF SASHIMI ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN

In a way, we can consider the project as the ancestor Where? House from SASHIMI architecture + design, from 2012, in Melbourne. This is the temporary transformation, on the occasion of Melbourne Music Week, of an iconic building, but long abandoned, on the corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets. Rooms with live and electronic music, seminars and workshops, a dining room and bar, a vintage clothing area, rooms for film screenings and art installations are introduced. The designers’ intention was to evoke warehouse party culture of the early nineties, giving the environment a minimal and “construction site” industrial character, also through the use of scaffolding. The formal result, from the point of view of the design of the environments, is not memorable, but testifies to the beginning, in all parts of the world, of a different way of dealing with the issue of remodeling and re-functionalizing disused spaces.
By the Portuguese architect Paulo Moreira are projects of a café in Porto, A Sandeira, of 2013, and of a brewery in Lisbon, Musa, of 2017, characterized by the smart balance between the newly introduced furniture, with a tight design, and the preserved parts. The first uses elements and materials that have been recycled from other buildings in the city, with the aim of avoiding the dichotomy between “new and old”. The use of worn doors gives the room a “degraded” appearance, in harmony with the surrounding very degraded area. The floor is made of granite slabs that extend the street inward, emphasizing the idea of ​​public use of the space. In Musa, housed in a former department store with an uncertain fate, due to a probable property encroachment that could cancel its presence, the new encroachments are added with great respect for the existing space. The character is of an environment / laboratory, where the “archaeological” effect of the brick walls prevails, enclosing environments with furniture made with thin and filiform, almost sculptural, metal elements.

NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov
NADA Studio, Old Mill Culture Center, Karpachevo, 2022. Photo Todor Todorov

STUDIO NADA AND REGENERATION OF AN OLD MILL

A third example is represented by the project of NADA study of the Old Mill Culture Center, from 2022, in Karpachevo, Bulgaria. It is the regeneration of an old mill, transformed into a cultural center and a meeting place for cultures, nationalities, generations and ideas. The remodeling of the abandoned building was accomplished using local natural materials and recycling of the available ones (wood planks, tiles, clay and plaster, burnt brick, stone, etc.). The designers wanted to preserve the raw and rural aesthetics of the original fabric by integrating it with a few measured interventions needed to meet the new needs of the room. Based on the principle of contrast and balance, the white-painted metal elements have been introduced to the interior to achieve a play between old and new, dark and light, “clean” and “dirty”. The envelope, in brick and boulders, has been kept in its original configuration, giving the building the character of timeless architecture, in harmony with the landscape of this part of northern Bulgaria. Use within not finished it does not appear as a form of stylistic complacency, but as a necessity, a way of restoring self-remembering in the history of that place. As the designers write to me: “We believe that remains have poetry in them, we just need to expose it in a delicate way so that everyone has the opportunity to experience space through their own personal prism“.

Davidson Rafailidis Architects, Big Space, Little Space, Buffalo, 2018. Photo Florian Holzherr
Davidson Rafailidis Architects, Big Space, Little Space, Buffalo, 2018. Photo Florian Holzherr

FROM GARAGE TO HOUSE

The latest example relates to Big Space, the Little Space project from 2018 onwards Davidson Rafailidis study, the transformation of a 1920s garage in Buffalo into a home and a work area. The interest is given by the choice to give up assigning the rooms a definitive character and to the use of any material that may seem “residential”, to allow them to transform over time, to adapt to different users , of ejaculation uses unexpected events. The space is seen as an animated thing with a living past and an unknown future, where the intervention is just one of many. It is not “rebuilt” to eliminate its messy past, but rather added in a way similar to how the participants in the game of the game did. lig exquis, dear to the surrealists. A cultured and refined project that also indicates the possibility of adapting this approach to the difficult theme of the contemporary home environment. In this way, the field is cleared of certain clichés – also recently re-presented by improvised interior design philosophers – about the meaning of living today, in the “era of neo-nomadism”, without having to give up the extraordinary studies of Praz and Bachelard. In fact, take them as a starting point and add some precious contributions from anthropological studies, such as those of Carla Pasquinelli on the changes that have taken place in domestic rituals.
In each of these examples you can read a different and original declension of the theme for regeneration ofremains. But all seem to be the symptom of a completely different approach, compared to the tradition of the renovation or restoration project, to a crucial question concerning not only the post-industrialized geographical areas, but the whole planet.

Luciano Crespi

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