We’ve always loved those projects that give new appearance and utility to something old and ruined. Most of the time, the transformations are spectacular, especially when the landscape and architectural features are also preserved. This is the case of this lovely vacation home, which was previously a fish-farm pump station built in the ’80s on an artificial island in the Baltic Sea, in Latvia.
The red-brick Pumping Station showcasing a modest, straight, one-storey, L-shaped building has never been exploited since and remained a ruin, becoming over time a local landmark of its place and epoch, a monument of industrial architecture from the Sovietic era. The interesting conversion project, realised between 2007 and 2010, bear the signature of architects from Zaigas Gailes Birojs. It is an environmentally friendly 514.2 sq.m. island retreat for a family with children.
The main objective regarding this conversion was to preserve as much as possible both site and building characteristics, whilst infusing it with the contemporary function. By combining these, they accomplished a new architectural quality, which is seen quite well from pictures shown. Pale contour lights defines the principal façade of the building, the circumference of the zone in front of the house, which was covered with concrete, and also the whole length of the access road, where at it end, there is a light metal construction. The garage is in the left side of the building, when you enter to the territory.
The rectangular landscape was modified on the seaward side building a new jacht harbour and a sandy beach. Both the northwest section and the southeast one have stone embankments reinforced in order to protect the building’s walls from sea winds and waves during autumn storms. Some blinking navigation lights announce the entrance to the harbour. On the seaward side, the building features a wooden deck supported on metal frames, that has been lowered along the harbour to help boarding. The original bent water pipes underneath the deck were retained and left open, while on the beach it was built “the Bathhouse” (Nautilus) -a completely new structure- which is linked with the deck by an oblique wooden gangway. Architectural details and landscaping elements such the outside lamps and the gate are made of rusted steel and look like they were always there.
The plan of the vacation home has now three partitions: a full-height main hall in the centre, a two-storey apartment for the parents at one end and four two-storey apartments for the children, each with a distinct bathroom, at the other end of the building. From the massive block that it was, now the edifice is open and transparent due to the new, large windows and glass doors that are of the same dimensions as the windows. They all are equipped with sliding shutters, made of corten steel plates identically with the façade of the building. Although they made major changes, the architects preserved the original reddich tone, the velvety-brown rust color, but also the rectangular shape of the edifice that was for almost two decades a notable Kaltene landmark. Besides that, it attains a scenic harmony with the gentle tonality of the Kurzeme coastal backdrop.
This horizontal simplicity of the landscape, together with the clear-cut architecture, determined both the symmetric layout of the house and the minimalist furnishings. Utility room, the storage rooms and the boiler room are in the basement, the subterranean part of the building, which was covered with a reinforced concrete. The main hall in the center part consists of one large room with clean lines which houses the kitchen area and the living room with fireplace at each ends, while in the middle there is a big, simple table as dining area. The industrially-inspired fireplace makes the lounging zone extremely welcoming, it seems like a warm and sheltering refuge in the harsh island scenery.
The style of the interiors has its roots in the industrial origins of the building, many parts of the overall layout of the house being left in their original condition, only minimally restored. Resembling the turret of a submarine, the Bathhouse is a two-storey object placed on the beach, a perhaps somewhat ironic version of the traditional Latvian bathhouse. Sunk into the sand with its lower part, Nautilus houses a sauna with a shower, changing rooms and the loggia with a hot-tub are on the upper level, while in the lower level it has the beach equipment. We will give you the pleasure to discover other architectural elements that captivates your attention and see how they are all combined to create this beautiful island retreat.
Photos © Zaigas Gailes Birojs
Architects: Zaiga Gaile, Agnese Sirmā
Client: Māris Gailis
Location: the village of Kaltene, Talsi, Latvia
Program: Private House
Construction years: 2007-2010
Size of the territory: 10 067 sq.m.
Space of the vacation home: 514.2 sq.m.
Space of the bathhouse: 52.45 sq.m.