NIMES – A modern extension has been added to Benoît and Roselyne’s traditional farmhouse in the south of France in order to accommodate a growing family. Parisian architect Dixneufcentquatrevingtsix (1986) has designed a geometrically-carved solution with a facetted façade which resembles an origami-folding technique and feels like a life-sized paper model. Although the dimensions are in-keeping with the scale of the existing structure, somehow the three-storey concrete addition appears more substantial in volume, dominated by a dense materiality which is beautiful in its simplicity.
The project wasn’t about blending in but was always intended to function independently. ‘At the beginning, the client imagined a project in the style of the existing house,’ comments studio founder Arthur Ozenne, ‘but for us, it was unimaginable to propose a “pastiche” of an old building. The challenge was to find a way of grafting a new organ to this old body without causing too much trauma.’
The architect notes inspiration taken from Le Corbusier’s chapel Notre Dame du Ronchamp, completed in 1954. Similarity, the thick concrete walls provide a sculptural structure interspersed with small window openings that somehow create an intriguing interior flooded with light.
The seemingly-random scattering of the window openings creates the ambience of a contemporary art gallery, with framed views of the exterior landscape peeking through the glass into the habitable space and creating a sequence of spaces that are only visible one at a time. The rest of the interior space is smooth, white and plain. ‘From the outside, the idea was to include windows without breaking the monolithic effect of the whole exterior volume, while blurring the reading of the interior spaces of the house,’ says Ozenne. ‘From the inside, these windows are like paintings hanging on the wall, framing the surroundings which cannot be apprehended as a whole from the inside. The idea was to exacerbate the contemplation of the landscape by offering only details to look at.’
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