An historical home or
building relates to the concept of memory, a testimony of a past that keeps us
culturally together. Such a dwelling refers tightly to life and
events of particular importance, therefore is like a history document to be
The practice of
restoring, or remodeling an historical home or a building is to keep what
already exists with the intent of conserving it for the future. This concept is not only related to
large architectural creations defined more or less like “monuments” but it is
also applicable to residential homes and all of the other creations that architecture
has transferred from one era to the other together with its materials,
technical connotations and its aesthetics. To know how to decipher the messages hidden in the original
material is to know how to remodel in the identity and character of an era
without altering its architectural patrimony. Restoration should not be just a
reconstruction of the face of the past supplying the absent eye with a genial
example of the survival of the original forms. The designer or architect
restoring an old building must have a deep knowledge in history of art and
architecture with a critical and balanced judgment that will permit to remove
or modify all the over imposed passages of various currents of taste that each
era brings with it.
Bohemian Entry - Circa 1908.
A few years ago, I came
to this country from Italy and I lived in a small town in the Bay area. It was
a magical place built in 1908 by a German family. The place was considered
“historical”, but when the time came to tear it down because a more profitable
apartment and suite complex was being planned, the dispute of keeping the place
intact was soon lost. Remodeling was not even something to consider.
Courtyard fountain - Circa 1908.
a few years have passed by since it was demolished. Sometimes, I drive by that
place and I can still see painters immortalizing on their canvases the window
of my former studio, or the courtyard fountain. I can still see someone’s
wedding pictures taken on my front steps decorated as Mediterranean garden
steps, or I can remember the court yard at night illuminated by lights infusing
each home (there were 14 cottages on a 5 acres of land) with a sense of magical
One of the 14 cottages, circa 1908. A sexy Swedish beauty consultant lived there.
The place was created in
a circle. In the middle there was a fountain, the 14 cottages looked into the
circle and all around them there was secular vegetation. The circle is known to be the one geometric
shape that pushes people to conviviality and friendship, that’s is what all of
us met there every day. We had dinners out in the courtyard under the starry
sky, there was confidentiality with one another, we shared preoccupations,
problems and laughter. All of us living there at that time were artists and all
of us were influenced by the picturesque setting. Sometimes we danced the night
away and sometimes we worked until the small hours of the night.
My former studio in this complex - circa 1908.
Another view of my former studio in this complex - circa 1908.
The new place that was
born after the original complex was destroyed has been redesigned with tall nondescript buildings with
expensive offices and apartments, tight and obscure passageways, the fountain
is gone, the courtyard has been eliminated and I bet you….. even the stars
don’t shine there at night any more.
remodeling can be applied also to urban centres, parks, gardens other than
ancient villas and furniture décor. Town planning is not exonerated from the
relationship between past and contemporary forms, we would see otherwise an
impoverishment in the environment. It is possible to make a distinct separation
between antique and new, or between the old town and the new town, or even
better it is possible to build a new construction next to an old home. As an
Italian born, I would love to see more of that in the future. Tearing down,
let’s say a thirty year only old home, just because it is considered old will
not make our culture survive and will not make us know our history which in
turn will make us understand our time to organize our future.
Stairs to my former studio in this complex - Circa 1908.
It was a very nice dream!
It was a very nice dream!Growing up in Italy,
during the time I was studying for my first college degree in Fashion Design,
the Fashion School I attended was four hundred years old. The marble stairs
were bowed in the middle. To keep the marble stairs alive, all of us students
and staff walked to the sides of the steps, along the rail on one side and
along the wall on the other side. The Fashion School building started its life
has a Nunnery, than as an Army station, than it became a Carabinieri (Police)
station and finally a Fashion School. That building is still there, it has
survived all the earthquakes of the area and all the wars and I hope it will be
there for four hundred more years. It stands now in a bustling modern road
filled with banks and offices, shops, antique churches and monuments, street
vendors and weekly street markets. From one generation to the other, every one
knows what that building has signified through the centuries. Ciao,
Copyright © 2009 Valentina
Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola, is a trained Interiors
and Fashion designer in business since 1990. She works on consultation
and produces design concepts for remodeling, upgrading, new home interiors and exteriors, décor
restyling and home fashion. Valentina was featured in
Italy on: “Vogue” magazine, Aug. 2003, issue #342 and many publications in
California. She also has made two appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15. Visit her http://www.valentinadesigns.com