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Design and Architecture: How to Combine Old and Contemporary Styles

Last modified: 2020-09-20 | Approximate reading time 3 mins

Christine Simard

In places like Montréal or Quebec, the unique architecture of buildings and apartment complexes is a part of the visual signature of these cities' designs. Some of these buildings are so important that a good portion of them are protected by laws when it comes to renovations, stemming either from neighbourhood rules or municipal bylaws.

For modern architecture and design enthusiasts, these conditions can prove to be problematic when planning renovation projects like a home extension. However, if these rules allow it, there are different ways to combine both styles without losing the historical beauty of the house and while respecting the history and design of the surrounding buildings.

Design and architecture: introducing the old to the new

The beauty of modern design to revive historic architecture

Historical architecture is in itself a visual testimony of cultural evolution around the world. In many parts of the old continent (Europe), we can find buildings that have been transformed by renowned architects, sporting extensions bordering on futuristic design, without however disrupting the original design of the building.

From libraries to museums and train stations, there exists a variety of unique restoration projects that perfectly meld into their surrounding aesthetics.

By working with this goal in mind, today's architects pay homage to these historic structures by enhancing their value, much like a declaration of love for these places. This way, the original materials are preserved and reworked to prevent the erasure of these structures that are so important to the cities in which they first were built.

Modern extension projects at home

For some, a brand new building with a modern design is the preferred solution. While the costs of an expansion on a historic home can go up quickly and ultimately seem more expensive than new construction, the emotional attachment for these structures, as mentioned earlier, often outweighs the desire to build anew.

The precise work of integration and the mixing of designs is what makes these projects so unique and authentic. By giving back life to these old country ruins, a century-old house needing an extension or a small rural house whose appearance we would like to enhance, architects see themselves developing a kind of hybrid architecture that mixes perfectly with its surroundings.

An architect's opinion on the sensitivity of adding on to existing structures

In a recent interview with blog The Spaces, designer Jonathan Tuckey spoke up about his opinion on the matter. Known for his radical transformation work on old buildings, Tuckey however explains that he's flexible on the subject.
In his opinion, the era in which we currently live doesn't fully let us choose one over the other. He also explains that, in many cases, designers and architects need to answer to urban planners, who in turn work to ensure that the needs of the community are met. The important thing is that his work harmonizes both sides of this idea.

the_spaces_Jonathan_Tuckey

Source: The Spaces

A few examples where modern architecture is mixed with historic buildings

The White House on Coll island in Scotland

Built in the 1700s, this small stone house first belonged to the island's "tack man", collecting the rents of farmers on the land. After serving as a tweed mill, the building was abandoned, left to deteriorate throughout the years.

This is when William Tunnell Architects set out to rebuild it, adding a minimalist and contemporary extension that perfectly adapts to the vast landscape surrounding it.

the_white_house

Source: The Spaces & Archdaily

Ten Broeck Cottage in Livingston, New York

Transformed by Messana O'Rorke, this house was once built by one of Livingston's early settler families. The architects extended the original building using Corten steel, a type of rust-coloured steel that blends in perfectly with the rest of the original decor.

ten_broek_cottage_messanaororke

Source: Messana O'Rorke

The bright facade of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

The Royal Ontario Museum is impressive both inside and out. With a glass frontal addition built in 2007, the design contrasts harmoniously with the original architecture which dates back to 1914.

royal_ontario_museum_AD

Source: Architectural Digest

Hunsett Mill, English countryside's futuristic mill

Located in the county of Norfolk in England, this old mill dating back to the 18th century was extended by ACME, adding a black timber extension in the back. Completely open with large windows, the reflections perfectly mirror the surrounding landscape.

hunsett_mill_divisare_akt

Source: Akt & Divisare

The imposing presence of the Port Authority in Antwerp

Once a forgotten old fire station and renovated in 2016, Port Authority is now home to the 500 employees of the port of Antwerp who were once split up across the city in different buildings.

Imagined by the incredible Zaha Hadid, the extension presents a structure in a futuristic design, resembling a spaceship landed on the building.

port_authority_antwerp_zaha_hadid

Source: Architectural Digest

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