Refuge IIVolver a la lista de Proyectos
‘I do accept dying. Much more difficulties I have with friends and family looking at me in the horizon of disease and death’, the client shared with me.
He was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS and asked me to adapt his house with an eye on the future.
We knew we had no time to waste considering the aggressive and degenerative nature of the condition.
The disease is progressive, symptoms getting worse over time. The time from onset to death is three to five years, during which the diseased will ultimately become unable to move, to speak and eat, untill finally breath is taken away.
The challenge was how to align the cycle of architectural Life with that of human Life?
An existing concrete carport was chosen for the project as a result of the limitation in adaptability of the existing house.
A barrier-free floor plan was a major concern, but what about the uneasiness of the client towards his friends and family? Could architecture respond to this?
In a disease without hope for cure there is a need for a universal hope, helping each other, involvement, engagement, friendship beyond limits.
So why not building with friends and family?
While building collectively, friends and family could recognize themselves as a community, working together, in solidarity, for the client’s future.
How to turn them towards creativity, shared experiments, collective trial and error? How to address imagination and desire? How to evoke a shared memory?
Maybe childhood? Maybe playing?
The memory of playing on the beach as a child, playing with other children, finding common ground to play on, to play with. Building castles with sand and water, fighting the waves. Making camps in haylofts and sleeping in it. Sand and straw, material to build with, to play with. We remember the touch, the smell, the feeling, the play. In the meantime, we forgot how to play.
Let’s play together again!
Let’s build Refuge II together, constructed out of straw and loam!
As a temporary project.
More than a 100 friends and family contributed in constructing Refuge II.
It was organized through ritual. Ritual as a kind of craft, a ‘craft of experience’ as Richard Sennett states:
‘Both the difficulties and the possibilities of making things well apply to making human relationships. Material challenges like working with resistance or managing ambiguity are instructive in understanding the resistances people harbor to one another or the uncertain boundaries between people.’(1)
While building his future we built our future.
Every weekend, we celebrated life with the best wine and delicious food. (We emptied the clients exquisite wine collection).
Everyone involved recognized him/herself in Refuge II.
They were part of it. It created mental accessibility. Friends and family came by to visit. In the house they built, touched, in the house they inhabitted, collectively.
The focus changed from sickness and death to hope and future.
The client decided to spend his last day in Refuge II, where he died surrounded by his close family.
All materials will be returned to nature: loam and straw will be scattered over the landscape as fertilization. Glass, metal, wood,… will be recycled.
Above all there is involvement.
The cycle of life.
(1) Richard Sennett, The Craftsman, New Haven & London, 2008, p. 289