SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE – In the late-1950s, Italian painter Lucio Fontana began showing monochrome canvases slashed with straight, surgical incisions. These Spatial Concepts draw attention to what lies behind the canvas, a place not often reached by the artist’s mark or the viewer’s gaze. In these works, international firm Hertweck Devernois found inspiration for a recent residential extension in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a municipality near Paris that fiercely defends its architectural heritage.
‘The site was classified as strictly off limits for new construction,’ say the architects. ‘We were able to convince the administration of the municipality by simulating the absence of the project on Google Earth.’ The project’s site plan confirms this ‘absence’, showing only the existing house and a thin, faceted line separating two regions of natural topography. Conceptually speaking, the architects realised the extension by way of incision, inserting the new building in a narrow pocket of earth below the existing one.
The residents now enter their home through the extension, which houses a kitchen, dining room, and living room in one continuous, flowing space that rises and falls with the ground beneath it. In plan, the new living space forms a crescent, directing its views toward the site’s natural focal point, a massive lime tree. The old house, which offered less than 100-sqm of living space, now contains five bedrooms and two bathrooms. From most angles, it is still the only visible building on the property.