In times of ecological crunches and economical collapses it is more than logic to discuss reasonable reutilisation of existing architecture. The architects David Yocum and Brian Bell from blgds turned this beautiful mid-century automotive electric parts warehouse into their office. For the renovation and the sensible conversion of the abandoned house into the Villa de Murph they recieved several Awards.
Here the story of the project:
“I started by driving around in the bad neighborhoods. Vacant lots, railroad lines, burned-out buildings. These are the industrial parts of the downtown, which still show the deep scars of a late-century urban flight. I was looking for something that nobody else wanted anymore. Something anonymous, something forgotten.
The building had been abandoned for seven years. It had always been, since 1947, an automotive electric parts warehouse. When the owner died in 1992, the family locked the door and moved out of the state. Since then, the roof had collapsed from the weight of standing water. It took me three months to track down the descendents of the owner, and when their agent showed up to meet me, I had to climb over the walls to get in.”
“Demolition took six months. One saw, one wheelbarrow, and five dumpsters. A dead forklift was dragged out by chains. 38,000 lbs. of steel starter gears were recycled.
I began with what was left: 4 windowless walls, a concrete slab, the roof joists, and the ever-present sky. And the three tracks of freight trains roaring by. The sounding of a train whistle is always the same: two long, one short, one very long.
Across the three freight train tracks, you approach the front door under a rusted canopy, 16 feet tall. Unknown to the street, inside is a private courtyard with a fireplace and a table for 18 friends. The paint, the rust, the decay – all is preserved. Further on, the back wall of the courtyard is all glass. Eight doors make a window inside to the studio. These are the only doors in or out, and these doors serve as the single window for both spaces. ”
“The studio is one room: 1000sf. Between the studio and the living area are two parallel walls. These walls are staggered and sliced by gaps filled with glass. The parallel walls hold three rooms: a kitchen, a utility room, and a shower room. When you wash dishes, when you do laundry, when you shower, the gaps in the walls frame views to the courtyard and beyond to the sky.
At the very back, the living area is 850sf. It holds a bed, two chairs, and a table. From the bed, through the gaps in the walls, you can keep your eye on the front door. Except for the trains, it is very quiet at Villa de Murph. And with the skylights, the night is often as bright as the day.”