Built to last

Catherine Paplin’s Woodstock project. (photo by Will Dendis)

Catherine Paplin’s Woodstock project. (photo by Will Dendis)

Last year we asked three local architects to tell us about a favorite residential project they’d worked on, one that had been particularly memorable and rewarding from their point of view.

Recently we continued that conversation with three other architects in the region. This time we heard about projects that were memorable because they allowed the architects the opportunity to connect the past with the present while looking forward to the future.

Each tale is different. But a common thread runs through their stories. The first involves a “carpenter’s special” that had been modified so many times and in such odd ways that had features worth keeping even though it didn’t work as a modern living space. Another architect was asked to create a new house that functioned in tandem with an old, existing cabin on the property. The last involves an architect and designer who revisited a project from their past: a house that had burned to the ground, leaving only its foundation and the opportunity for the creative team to rebuild it for the family, adapting it to the owners’ current needs and contemporary energy efficiency standards.

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Reconnecting past and present

“My ideal project is not necessarily a completely new, from-the-ground-up structure,” says Catherine Paplin, who has practiced architecture in the Northeast for over 18 years. “I actually like to inherit something to work with, because my view is that with modern architecture we live with a severe break with the past. One of my essential ideals is to reconnect with traditions and to bring them into the modern world.”

But it’s not about “aping” the past, contends Paplin. “I call it ‘reconnecting the broken spine of architecture,’ to start with something that’s there and figure out how to transform it to be something that’s not only satisfying for the client but appropriate to our time, something that makes a whole of the past and present.”

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