IF I MAY ADD SOMETHING

I was always fascinated by renovations and extensions of old structures, because, architectural qualities or flaws aside, the visual dialog between past and present adds unique layers of complexity and character.


In general, when dealing with existing structural or aesthetic challenge, you can either hide it, or highlight it. Same thing goes for extensions of old buildings: You can either hide the connecting seam between old and new, or you can making it look like an elaborated decision. I am usually drawn to the latter option, where both opposites are boldly interlaced, contributing and complementing each other.

All projects shown below have that same approach in common, acknowledging and emphasizing their link to an existing piece of history. There isn't any attempt to start over, hide it, or cast an all-modern look to fit the new extension; on the contrary, the past is there to stay, alongside a contemporary addition.

Each extension on these projects speaks the language of its attached past, whether in material, proportion or pattern, and the connection between the two is intentionally bold.


All photos depict only exterior facades (yes, it's very superficial, I'm aware). Click on any image/link to get redirected to learn more on each project, and to enjoy beautiful details and interiors as well .


MCR2 house, by architects Filipe Pina and Maria Inês Costa, is a century-old farmhouse in rural east Portugal. The original granite building was extended with a corrugated metal annex, and while each side has its own identity, the two contrasting parts are sheltered under one new roof, and share the same opening proportions.

I love how the old structure gets the same modern treatment for its window frames and doors, linking it to the metal clad of the new addition, while the new addition's main entrance receives a warmer material - a wooden door - connecting it to the warmth of the original facade. It's like a give-and-take visual dialogue.


Another project by architects Filipe Pina and Maria Inês Costa is House JA in Guarda, Portugal. The original stone building is connected to its concrete extension by a glass-fronted stairwell, creating a sophisticated stream between varied materials and eras, while also distinguishing between them.

In my eyes, the transparent-boxed stairwell serves as a visual addition mark; a pause in, what might have been otherwise, an automatic continuance between the original building and its extension.

All openings were treated with the same material, providing an exterior common feature for the two structures.


Residence DBB is an old compound in Belgium with a rich history going back to 1785. It contains a fortress from the 19th century, later transformed into a farmhouse, and even bunkers from when the Germans occupied the complex during WW 1&2. Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects were hired to transform the compound into 2 buildings: a family home with an office space, and a bed-and-breakfast hotel.

The architects cut away all expendable ruins and left only valuable, historic structures, while carefully attaching new volumes. The extensions' proportions and character follow the originals',and their timber cladding imitates the gun-ports, still visible in the historic walls.

The image above shows the elongated facade of the U-shaped family home, incorporating the residue of the old fortress/farmhouse. The positioning of the windows emphasizes the cut between the red and yellow brickwork (an evidence to the previous transformation of the fortress into a farmhouse), while also overlapping and connecting the new wooden extension,as shown below.


Same signature rules were applied to the Barn restoration and extension, as shown above. In this case, a glass structure connects the wooden annex, holding an indoor swimming pool, with the old, brick barn, holding the guest rooms.


The last project, shown below, was a derelict stone farmhouse in Scotland, renovated and extended by Studio Moxon. The old granite farmhouse is being mirrored with a modern version of wood and metal, and the two gabled structures are connected by a rectangular, green-roofed volume.

The transition between old and new, again, is conveyed by a fully-glazed corridor, as shown below.

Which project did you like the best? My first choice was MCR2 house, until I've discovered Residence DBB. It encases all my favorite methods of joining old and new, and every corner is carefully crafted to the very last detail, which is admirable considering the large scale of this project, and its rich history.


That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed this short journey of complexity & character across Europe!

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Real Design For Real People

© 2020 by Elinor Gefen-Rotstein

Greater Boston Area