• Richard Davignon

The Newest Thing is Something Old

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Nostalgia and reverence is often what people feel when it comes to older homes and buildings. Not always justified nor does it need to be, there is a complex level of emotional response to the interaction of something from another time and place. These spaces and buildings often embody craftsmanship and manners not promoted or common today. They require that we use our imagination, that we transport ourselves to gain an understanding of what makes them unique and valuable. We then engage to imagine and mold our current needs to their idiosyncrasies and their unfamiliar proportions.  At Davignon Martin, we have devoted much of our time to innovation and the design / construction of new and modern architectural work. We always demand a project narrative, the voice that goes beyond the design, an architectural purpose that begins where the solutions end, so that the ‘new’ contextually finds its’ place in an initially perceived pre-emptive condition. We refer to this as “social” sustainability.

Something rather unique is happening as of late. We have been charged with caring for a number of heritage structures both commercial and residential. Why? Specifically because of our innovative personalities and penchant for narrative. Our patrons find themselves emotionally invested in their architectural objects, their craft and character, they believe in the possibility of giving them a second life.  What is desired is not only an act of conservation and salvation i.e. the restoration of the piece for its own sake but rather the desire to merge their own stories with that which has already existed. I remember reading an article in the Globe and Mail where the act of preservation was equated to the risk of zombifying architecture, quite appropriately.

One recent residential project, shown above, is a 1912 heritage home, an 1800 sq. foot American Four Square style residence in Hillhurst that will be remodeled with an addition at the back. The proud owner loved the character this home offered, but had high hopes of incorporating his own style and modern conveniences. These project types are extremely interesting to Davignon Martin where the opportunities double; not only by following our process of co-creation between owner and architect but also in the contrast between past and present. The rehabilitation and transformation of something old to address new urban, residential, technological or cultural conditions is an inclination we have pursued for more than a decade. For me, this was influenced in great part from my years growing up in Montreal. We endeavour to rethink how these buildings would be today by understanding the lineage between the then and the now.

These questions have influenced and enable many of our projects. From posing a subtle architectural act to a complete transfiguration, these commissions have captured our imagination! How do we make the past active while aspiring to a new narrative? Each piece becomes an authentic proposition, an architecture of the present where the past and the future meet. It appears our new and refurbishment work have followed a parallel motive. We look forward to showcasing this work – stay tuned!

Richard Davignon, Principal, Architect Davignon Martin Architecture + Interior Design

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