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Monday, November 19, 2012

Historic coexists with Contemporary

By Pari Syal
Photography: Børje Müller; courtesy Oppenheim Architecture + Design


It isn’t everyday that one gets a chance to enjoy both, the warmth and emotion of the old juxtaposed with the crisp freshness of the new. With the Kirchplatz office and residence in Basel, Switzerland, the inmates are fortunate to experience the best of both worlds, each with a finite identity.

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US-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design has worked on an old historic farmhouse built in 1743, up for adaptive re-use, and converted it into their official base in Europe. With sustainability considerations that include solar roof panels, reclaimed wood facade, and the restoration of existing architectural elements wherever possible, in addition to maintaining energy efficiency construction standards, the old farmhouse now facilitates a fresh interpretation to the existing traditional features. This is achieved by creating new openings for natural daylight and by using a crisp white finish in the interiors, which juxtapose against the texture of the old wood; and through the way in which the spaces open up, overlap, and merge together with one another.

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Adjacently positioned to this old-world charm is a new single family home - an elegant contemporary residential structure that shares commonalities of materials (Reclaimed wood, stone, stucco, ceramic roof tiles) and colours. Minimalist in essence, the 3000 sq. ft. home has reclaimed wood (from the flooring of the farmhouse) for its exterior cladding, and is warm with tonal variations of umber juxtaposed with white in a very neutral palette, lending it a very serene ambience.


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The office too, rather than being inward-looking, intentionally builds on vibrant public spaces and creates neighbourhood identity by providing use of the office’s main conference room and gallery as a community meeting space, hosting a variety of neighbourhood meetings and special events.


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Rather than consuming the overall project site with buildings, there are gardens and open spaces for the enjoyment of the employees and residents, respecting nature by providing wildlife habitat, and well-maintained facilities and landscaping for the preservation of property values. 


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The project exemplifies a simple exercise in reinterpretation of function and layout and diligently positions the same with an equally uncomplicated contemporary setup, underlined by a common palette as the mainstay. Interestingly, the high point of the project is its distinctly different expressions with the interplay of modern and historic simultaneously delighting the senses.

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