Re-Make Re-Model


The stucco façade of a 12 million GBP house in Kensington, London is to be rebuilt - with the cracks and chips of the original.

The redevelopment by Swedish property magnate Gerard Versteegh planned to preserve the façade in the classic gut-and-fill manner.

He was then granted permission to knock it down on condition that he build an exact replica.

"The house will look exactly as it did when it was built," said Mr Versteegh, "and you end up with a better property in terms of building quality"

A spokesman for the council said: "Recreating a façade that is an exact copy of the previous one will not affect this conservation area".

Behind this new-old elevation Mr Versteegh will install the usual programme of a millionaire's mansion - a basement with cinema, swimming pool, games room, laundry, wine cellar and aquarium plus two staff bedrooms. On the first floor, Mr. Versteegh and his wife Camilla will each have a dressing room and bathroom, as will the guest room. On the second floor, there will be three children's bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. The attic will feature a large playroom and the house will also have a library, study and several reception rooms. A grand spiral staircase will run up through the building. At the end of the 70ft garden will be a garage with room for several cars and a gym underneath.
The idea of rebuilding something imperfect is both beautiful and perverse. Even thinking about someone carefully crafting a crack, or sculpting a chip sends shivers down my spine. Perhaps they will paint on some staining, or faux-rust some railings, or crack and then badly repair a roof slate completely intentionally.

The notion that it might improve the quality of the building is also interesting. What if all that stucco was carved out a single block of marble? Or mahogany? Or perhaps cast in bronze? Or glass? Or ice?

With some imagination, the act of remaking the façade could become a means of dialogue between the physical form of the façade, the passing of time, changes in value or use and so on.

This kind of remaking is reminiscent of Gus van Sants verbatim-remake of Physco from Hitchcock's shooting script, replicating the camera moves, lighting and so on with colour film and different actors. In this re-make the act of re-making becomes visible. For example, Hitchcock's significant original shot of Anthony Perkins Adams apple wobbling becomes entirely redundant as Vince Vaughn, reprising the role, had a far less pronounced throat-based-secondary sexual characteristic.

Architectural remakes introduce the same kind of puzzling redundancy: Tudor mansions in Beverly Hills have roofs and windows for English winters.

That idea that the re-make might capture a particular stage in a buildings decay is also intriguing, The building might not revert to its 'original' just-built state - as is usual in cleaning or refurbishment. For example, the newly cleaned, gleaming white St Paul's looks as close as is possible to the day its construction was completed in 1708. An alternative to its current cleanliness could be an era-specific re-dirting - perhaps to match its famous Blitz image amongst the smoke of burning London.

I'm reminded of a project where our contractor was more used to building stage sets and theme parks than buildings. Looking through the drawings, he asked us 'how old would you like this wood to be?' - a question which confounded us at the time, more used to queries over how to fix one thing to another.

Posted by sam at July 26, 2007 5:32 PM

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