- Adrien Williams
The ghost of an existing space is always interesting to dissect, especially when it underwent a facelift that only leaves traces of the former presence for a desired curiosity. In contemporary architecture, design decisions that deal with renovations often create stark contrast with the old and the new for a theatrical effect; yet executions are immensely important when applying this approach. The public consensus is generally negative when said distinction is apparent in institutional and historical architectural projects. However, for residential dwellings, the act of navigating through the limits of change is much easier; thus allowing for architects to possibly cover the precedent with aesthetic choices.
When looking at Knowlton Residence, a minimalist house designed by Thomas Balaban Architect (TBA), there is little evidence referring to a past farmhouse except for its classic slanted roof. Using this standard typology, TBA expands the addition vertically for more viewing points without having to excavate the hilltop for foundation. With the ageing farmhouse as the foundation itself, the designers painted its facades white and created an open plan to deliver a dialogue between the residence and the snowy landscape. Through embedded large openings within the old structure, common images of a dark and suffocating farmhouse is gone, replaced by moments of pouring skylights and crisp airiness. In contrast to the farmhouse, the one-storey extension is clad with slabs of dark cedar wood. The new mass is lined with metal seams like a graphical artwork in lieu of a vast tundra scenery.
On the interior, walls are painted white with geometric cuts, criss-crossing wooden flooring. With warm yellow lights, the house is engulfed in a lonesome coziness that embraces its inhabitants. The furniture forms a palette of warm yellow and cool grey, resembling its exterior. Modest and understated, glows of warm light hidden under the staircase or the slope’s end gracefully insert an elegant tenderness. Combined with the winter forest, a beautiful painting is conjured with immaculate details like metal contours in black around glass panels. Occasionally, clouds of white smoke exit from the chimney, signing activities of comfort and intimacy within spatial openness.
Knowlton Residence is a charming project that still maintains hints of the past. Lines of corrugated metal still exist, along with the 45-degree tilts and a protruding chimney, like reminders of colliding eras where the now is present and memories are put in the subconscious. There is no nostalgia, there is only constant mindfulness.