Parasitic Architecture and its Effectiveness- Nick Tafel

As buildings continue to age, the idea of complimentary architecture must enter into all of our minds.  As students of design, we face the task of using the existing structure of a building in a new and creative way more so now than in the past years.  The need for new buildings seems to be lessening and the need for the retrofitting of old buildings is becoming a much more popular idea.  These complimentary “parasites”, as they are called, can be found in many different shapes and sizes.  Many offer not only cost efficiency, but also space efficiency.  They allow the clients to add a certain amount of space to their existing building in a tasteful and interesting way. Parasitic architecture allows for a whole new set of design challenges. I would like to discuss a few examples of parasitic architecture and their successfulness in becoming integrated with the environment around them.  I think as architecture continues to evolve as a profession; the viability of these parasitic additions will increase exponentially. 

The Laymann house by Meixner Schluter is a great example of how a complimentary addition can make use of the existing structure and design of the a building but still add a great deal of its own design and interesting ideas.  The addition is built around the existing structure of the old house.  It encases the old house and extends out on one side to add a new living room.  The nice thing about this addition is that the existing house is still recognizable in the design of the living room.  Schluter even left some of the façade of the existing building exposed in an effort not to hide what was once there.  To me this is a very nice idea: that he is celebrating the structure of the old house rather than hiding it away.  Also, if you look into the living room in the first picture, you can see that the new loft/balcony was informed by the lines that were once created by the roof.  This is something that you see throughout the house altogether.  The designer was very careful to make design decisions that were informed by the existing structure of the house.  Because of this, the house keeps its original spirit but has been refined into a new structure.  This building also makes use of a new building technology called Poroton, a self insulating brick that can be used in place of standard framing and insulation.  The combination of the cost efficiency of this addition and the architect’s close attention to the articulation of the old house in the new design makes it a successful example in my opinion. 
Another successful example of an integrated parasitic building, but in a different way, is the  Invisible House by Francois Roche.  During the pre-deisgn of this building, the residents of the area raised concerns about a building being built here.  They said that they did not want to have an obtrusive building here that would take away from the garden that existed there.  Because of this, Roche decided to make the building completely under a blanket of ferns and mask it completely from view.  Here, Roche did not have a building that he had to utilize, he had to connect into the nature.  This technique, done quite successfully, allowed the residents to enjoy the comfort of their garden and also allowed Roche to build here.  The windows are even masked with a series of organic glass bulbs to hide them from view further.  This is where parasitic architecture becomes quite interesting.  If you notice, Schluter and Roche both had to adjust to different design parameters for their installation to be successful.  Schluter’s was successful in celebrating the building while Roche’s success came from masking the building completely.  That, to me, is the most interesting thing about these parasitic installments.  Each of them has their own set of design problems to be solved so the end result is therefore just as unique as a normally designed building might be.

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