“Make a derelict timber-framed building from the 17th century habitable again!” How does an architect approach a task like this? Conservationists would probably recommend restoring the existing structure using traditional, artisanal methods. They would likely suggest putting aside one’s own design ingredients and, where relevant, making the work reversible. Either way, the result would always involve interventions of greater or lesser intensity in the situation as is.
A highly remarkable and different approach to this task has been taken by Kate Darby and David Connor, who chose to secure the house’s load-bearing structures in its existing state and encase it in a new building. This radical form of pure conservation has otherwise been applied to frescoes or paintings, where any more extensive recreation would damage the original work.
Kate Darby and David Connor made the existing ruins into part of a guesthouse and studio, whereby they incorporated visibly new fixtures made of steel into the rooms of the old building. Steel also forms the frame of the new building. The external view is likewise dominated by metal elements: The walls and roof are clad in black corrugated sheet, into which the metal-framed windows are set.
Whether this project should be viewed as heritage preservation or rather as an art project remains somewhat equivocal. On the one hand, a ruin has been protected here, the artistic or cultural-historical value of which remains unclear. On the other, the architects also didn’t shy away from fitting supply pipes in the old building they so carefully encased.