Preserving the "Country Cottage"

Wohlfart-Laymann House 
Arch.: Meixner Schluter Wendt
(Jennifer Lenn)

       During a time when the idea of a post-modern style poisons the idea of beauty in architecture design, it is easy for many of the older buildings to simply fade into the backgrounds of history. Buildings that, at one point stood out in innovation and design serving as a crucial living place, now seem to get lost in the predecessors of today's architecture. I grew up in a small house, in a small town, the southeast region of the United States. In this small town, architecture was not an elaborate demonstration of the world's latest innovation and technologies, but it made is presence known by providing the necessary means to serve its function. A common theme seemed to exist among many of the houses which dressed this town and, in turn, began to mold my ideas of a "home". A simple square floor plan consisted of a kitchen with only enough excess space to accommodate a small table to hold a family meal, a small living room area and only enough bedrooms to provide for a "typical" size family (which means that some rooms were shared by siblings). 

       These simple floor plans  were typically constructed on top of a 3 foot crawl space defined by an exposed wall of cement blocks. The "architecture" itself contained little or no ornamentation but the overall construction dressed the centralized space with a wrap around porch which allowed for a very personalized adornment by its inhabitants. Today, architectural innovations have challenged and evolved the idea of a "home" and these simple structures have come to seem somewhat primitive. As I have moved away from my small town and exposed myself to many other ideas, places, people, art, design, and structure 

through my studies in architecture, I see more and more how people view these older homes as being tasteless and/or disdainful. However hideous these homes seem to my fellow peers, I have and will always maintain a certain admiration for this style of home. 

       While many architects today do everything they can to navigate away from styles of the past, there are few that embrace it. This is why I am particularly enthused to see the work of Meixner Wendt on the Laymann House in his efforts to preserve a simple house of the 1930's. Aside from its location in Frankfurt, Germany, the overall structure of the house is very similar to that of the vernacular "home" I became accustomed to in my small town. The house exists in the Taunus hills area which is right outside of Frankfurt. Initially, the goal was to enlarge this space by replacing the existing house with a bigger one, however, Wendt had a better idea. He decided to preserve this "traditional, simple country cottage" by expanding on it with a protective "shell". 

       The shell he proposed implemented elements of post-modern architecture to complement the remains of the 1930's which it would encase. You can see, by looking at the plan, how the outer shell interacts with the original house plan based on predetermined functions of the original house. The walls of the original house were also painted a soft off white to complement the shell. The openings of the original house are broken open to allow for light to come through the shell and provide proper lighting inside. Encasing an original structure with a new shell puts an intriguing play on the relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces. What used to be an outdoor patio is now an indoor porch with a                  completely different atmosphere. 

       I really appreciate Meixner's efforts to preserve such a quaint and picturesque space while really embracing the architecture of the 1930's. He was able to do all this while still implementing his own design and complementing old architecture with new architecture while embracing and enhancing the overall atmosphere of the space. 


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