by Jerry ElengicalMar 15, 2023
As time and tides have proved more times than necessary, ruin, breakage, and wear do not signal the end of a built structure’s life. There is much beauty to be found in imperfection as seen in ancient traditions such as the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Contemporary architectural practices the world over have taken heed of this line of thought in a variety of ways, from renovation and refurbishment to the scores of adaptive reuse projects that have repeatedly shown that building anew is not necessarily the best course of action in every case. Spanning scales that vary from homes to much larger museums, monuments, and industrial buildings, this trajectory is perhaps one of the most effective ways to steer clear of the wastefulness of demolition and new construction, instead, preserving the irreplaceable pieces of history ingrained within the built environment of today. On the smaller end of the spectrum, LC Arquitectura, a practice based in Mexico has completed a similar venture, where a former private residence that had fallen into disrepair, has now undergone a metamorphosis under their stewardship, emerging as a new office for a transportation company on the fringes of the city of Córdoba.
In the years following its abandonment, the ruined shell of the structure had become home to a number of indigenous plants. Bedecking its walls, floors, and ceilings, these wreaths of green meld beautifully with the aged brick of the original structure, a common material in Mexican architecture, enhancing its simple, naturalistic qualities. Although the building’s form was quite unpretentious, the rhythmic use of colonnades on its perimeter walkways, and the void inside the plan maintain the structure’s links to the ecosystems that it engages with, on a visual, physical, and spiritual level. From the start, the design team resolved to only proceed with a solution that would conserve the soul of the existing residential building, keeping its essence intact for future generations.
Lying low amid lush plains, the single storey home was restored to a semblance of its original glory, following which a new concrete extension was implemented, with glass bridges connecting the two. As a material, glass has been used abundantly throughout the design, both on the building’s façade design and as part of the interior. This allows ample daylight to illuminate every nook and corner of the building, providing the company’s employees with a space that would eclipse the relatively confined and drab environment of their previous office. Pivoting floor-to-ceiling windows fitted along the peripheral walkways pave the way for fresh air to enter and exit the building, maintaining thermal comfort and a hospitable atmosphere inside.
Symmetry is prominent in the design of the entrance, where glass doors flanked by a pair of exposed concrete masses welcome one into the structure. While the entrance projects from the main body of the building, with a flat overhang extending over its porch, two additional wings spread from the base of its protrusion, garbed in the same palette of glass, metal, and concrete, with pivoting glass windows framed by a dark, metallic roof whose machine-like aesthetic is just a taste of things to come.
Providing a spiritual core for the structure, a reflecting pool of water, placed in a narrow volume, aids in cooling and refreshing air throughout the space. Itself surrounded by a landscape design features both pre-existing and implemented as part of the transformation, this zone is boxed in by a series of walls that represent a continuous gradient: from lightness to heaviness, transparency to opacity, and new to old. Beginning with the original walls of the structure which have been supplemented by concrete additions, their stories etched into the breaks in their surfaces, with cracks and faults that speak of the occurrences they have been witness to, the materiality morphs into a more refined brick assembly, finally transforming into transparent glass.
However, it is worth noting that even the original walls do bear an avenue for visual connectivity between the arms of the structure they border on either side. A glass oculus has been provided on both sides, each looking through organic breaks in their respective walls, where the openings seem to have emerged through an uninterrupted process of erosion rather than human intervention. A solitary plant stands at the centre of the pool design while boulders decorate the waterscape, whose edges are lined with shrubs. Vines drape the walls, drooping down from a metal mesh ceiling in tandem with lighting design elements that resemble glowing bits of rope that bind the plants.
Cool, elegant, and calculated in their blending of sleek corporate and industrial-style aesthetics, the office designs adhere to a palette of neutral tones, with abundant whites, greys, and blacks used to colour the canvas of each space. Pasta tile flooring, typical of both the traditional architecture and contemporary design norms in the country, is ubiquitous throughout most spaces, animating the workspaces and outdoor walkways with mesmeric geometric design patterns. Furniture designs seen in the offices combine spindly metal frames and structures with natural grain wood, alongside upholstered office chairs, extending the theme of blending the old and new.
This trend has also been infused into some of the aesthetic flourishes throughout the office spaces, from herringbone-patterned brick walls, to rough, unfinished lighting fixtures that bare the skeletal reinforcement of the old structure’s beams, or finally, a show stopping stone desk in the office, which appears to have been chiselled from a single rock. Rippling stratification can be observed in the surfaces of this desk, which combines a straight, finished tabletop resting on a base of unprocessed stone. The stone here is offered a counterpoint by the relatively warmer aesthetic of the room it inhabits, featuring wood-panelled flooring and large pivot windows that look on to the surrounding countryside.
Revelling in the eclectic but measured marriage of tradition and contemporaneity, through clever use of ornament and materiality, CR Offices offers food for thought on the intent and intrusiveness of adaptive reuse, renovation, and refurbishment ventures, illuminating a way forward for those that will follow in its footsteps. Preserving the quintessence of a traditional home, and gifting it with new purpose, the office is intimate yet open, welcoming both daily users and visitors to become part of the stories etched into its walls.
Name: CR Office
Location: Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico
Client: J. Carus, R. Reyes
Architect: LC Arquitectura
Lead Architects: Adriana Limon Calatayud, Jorge Limon Calatayud
Landscape Design: Viveros Sofía and LC Arquitectura
Metallic Structures: JM Taller
Carpentry: Carpinteria 46
Furniture: Lc Interior Design, Carpinteria 46, Spazio Marmol, Zuo, Decoreone, Antigua Casa, Pergo Furniture, Bracco, MDC
Pasta Floors: Design Mosaics
Wooden Flooring: Creative Flooring
Artwork and Murals: Lourdes Calatayud
Sculptures: Nómada Studio