One way to handle rehabilitation of a charming two century old stacked stone and log cabin is to sharply contrast old and new. In this rehab in the village of Linescio in the Swiss Alps there is no new work in the old materials wood and stone. The new is glass or poured concrete. The poured concrete doesn’t challenge the dominance of the wood and stone on the exterior. It is only seen there in the jambs of doors and windows and in a simple blocky chimney mid-building.
Inside however formed and poured concrete is used extensively – for floors, walls, stairs, chimney and fireplace, baths and sinks, even vaulted ceilings. Reinforced with steel rod it becomes a major structural system for the building and adds a lot of mass to an already formidable building. With inner concrete lining the main walls are now 3 feet thick. You see it at the doorways.
Temporary formwork for the concrete walls was erected inside the old stone shell of the building. The Basle based architects Buchner Brundler AG designed and managed the rehab. Natalie Zeitz there tells us they poured the amazing vaulted concrete ceilings by temporarily removing the wood shakes of the roof and pouring concrete between the open beams – as can be seen in the photograph she sent us (below.)
The extensive use of concrete in the rehab takes seriously the historic preservation principle that modern work should be clearly differentiated from the old. In fact it takes that principle so far many American historic preservationists would say that it breaches another, almost opposite, principle of preservation they hold dear: namely that the new should be ‘compatible’ with the old.
Myself I love the contrast of the concrete and glass on the one hand and hewed beams, stacked stone and rough handsplit roof shakes on the other.
Wooden formwork gives the concrete texture, and its natural grey color is subdued. The contrast is in the texture.
In my own modest interiors I like to mix the smooth and shiny manufactured stainless or chromed tubing and cast aluminum furniture with natural stone, weathered wood and leather.
A matter of taste
It’s a matter of taste I suppose, and views will differ.
In this Swiss cabin I love the simplicity of all-concrete on parts of the interior.
Other places of course the old quirky hewn beams and richly textured old stonework form a powerful part of the interior, a strong and constant reminder for the inhabitants of the origins of the building.
Here in Frederick opposite the Visitor Center on South East Street we have a prominent example of strongly contrasting old and new just opening. The century old high pitched roof barn and old brickwork of the Monocacy Cannery has attached to it a boxy and uncompromisingly modern three story steel and glass office addition.
Several people have asked me: How could the Historic Commission have allowed that?
Actually it’s just outside the historic district boundary, so the historic regulators had no jurisdiction.
The developer Bert Anderson prefers to avoid the extra complexity and uncertainty of having to deal with the Historic Preservation Commission. He chooses his developments just outside its control.
Two gems of the downtown on North East St – Shab Row and Everedy Square – developed by Anderson 1975 to 1990 were also facilitated by their location outside the officially regulated historic district.
You fear that the brilliant rehab by Buchner Brundler in the village of Linescio wouldn’t get past American historic regulators. Swiss architecture and life is enriched by their greater freedom.
BACKGROUND: Linescio is a small Alps village in the far south of Switzerland just across the northern border of Italy. Milan just 50 miles away is its closest major city.