Built in 2002, the Galvani House in Paris, France (on the street of the same name in the 17th arrondissement) is the answer given by the architect Christian Pottgiesser to a seemingly impossible question. How to provide extra living space to a three-story house without touching the facade, without obstructing the view from the house to the street, and without removing an inconveniently placed Lime tree. Text description provided by the architects. The power of three dimensional design proofed its right in a single amorph surface that structures all these complex demands. Linking the doorstep of the old building and the new entrance it stretches, curves and bends, adapting to the program beneath, above and in face of it.
From the street it’s acting in stealth mode, where the only element drawing attention is the few hundred tons weighing brick block, hovering above the garden and two glass walls, pierced by a preserved lime tree. The urban garden serves as the upper skin of the concrete surface, containing the kitchen, dining area and garage. These are well lit by two patios, piercing through the surface. A prototype for the domestic elements showing their sculpted stand-alone character is to be found in the oversized chimneys for stairs, not touching the ground.
The textural contrasts, vivid colours, sensuous aesthetic and accentuation of the building’s garden pay hommage to Luis Barragàn’s work (1902-1988). Everything seems designed to be forgotten, construction details sparkling in their abscence. It feels as if it ‘s drawn from human necessity, lacking attention seeking frivolity without purpose, suiting the urban fabric, silent but radiating intelligence, in line with the french rational tradition. A protection from urban city business, hiding underground, under a garden camouflage. Serenity in the disposition of materials, details, architectural elements and residential activities makes living in it an experience for the architectural mind. By proper analysis, imagination deciphered the parisian urban code. It enacts a strange different logic, setting up a new but rational typology.
Photos by Gert von Bassewitz