The family home I’ve finished last year is currently doing its blogworld tour, but this only becomes interesting when the project starts to be featured in reflections that are a little bit more theoretical than just the usual pasting and posting of the latest design novelty.

Rather than than just being cool-hunted, I find it only naturally preferable that projects may arouse some curious discussion – or at least are reproduced within an attempt at framing what’s hitting us at any given moment, as the one proposed in this personal view by Collyn Ahart Chipperfield.

In this sense, I thought I should add to the discussion by offering my own presentation text for that design. After all, child-like references are indeed at the core of it. One may say that a childish world must be faced with friendly irony.


Ghosts in the Shell

Sometimes it happens. Gentrification preys on small row houses that suddenly turn from outcast to highly enviable. As a result of historical accidents in the evolution of either small or big cities, what was once marked as socially invisible can reveal itself alluring and eye-catching.

This is the story of one of these places.

With its view on the Oporto river and one of its many bridges, this little house was indeed an attractive target. At little more than 40sqm here was a stone shell that, stripped of its prior ghosts, could turn into a highly desirable commodity.

Amazing as its cityscape was, the architecture of the house was poor and incomprehensible, except if considered in pure economical terms. Its single floor seemed impossibly full with kitchen, dining and two rooms. Openings were scarce and ungenerous. A cellar space was no more than a half height forgotten hole.

In comes the architect, the wizard of Oz, to do his magic and create new ghosts to replace the old ones. Even if the crisis strides out there, enters the golden touch of property development hypermodernity.

The place’s liveable area is magically tripled under the very same roof: it expands upwards and downwards.

On top, a bachelor pad is born, a spaceship for sex and sleep complete with a diving view onto the green and a sentinel’s lookout onto the sky. Below, the ground is excavated to create temporary rooms from which the young sons can step up onto the private courtyard garden.

The entrance floor is totally demolished to reveal a hidden scenario and welcome a new way of life. Here, the architect does his thing and casts his spell: out goes Cinderella, in come the Transformers© and what looks like the paraphernalia of new manga heroes.

The new inner landscape thus accommodates functional parasites that stand in a stark contrast with the shell stripped bare.

Against the white, colourful geometric beings seem to emerge out of nothing: an entrance box pushes forward with an eye on things, a wormlike staircase perforates the house until it transforms into the skylight, a petrol green caterpillar flowers from kitchen fitting onto dining room sideboard.

These animals, let’s call them such, rest against the back entrance wall. As everything and everyone in the house’s middle floor they face three dissimilar apertures that have been cut down to the floor to let in the powerful view at uneven intervals.

Inwards and outwards, the house is now ruled by a new breed of genius loci.

Pedro Gadanho, Lisbon, October 2008


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