SS 2020 Burning Down the House
Gabriel Fiette, Sacha Rezzonico.

The American Nightmare

Nothing Burns Forever Except Your House

As a starting point, we chose the Comfort Starr House in Connecticut, built in 1675, because of its recognisable form and marks the start of true American architecture.

The fire dissociated the skin from the structure and carved out the original volume.

A precise survey of the remains formed the basis of our interventions.

We held up the burned house with structural interventions in the form of four self-standing separate elements which we call “totems”.

The geometry of the totems is determined by the fire, the connect the points on the beams which are still intact.

As we conceived our project as a new build, we decided to get rid of the original primary structure.

The only remaining presence of the fire is embedded in the geometry of the totems.

The totems are the generators of the house - they define the interior spaces and exterior enveloppe.

The historical elements are subverted, inverted, kept or replaced, altered to suit contemporary needs and construction.

The thermal boundary follows the structural interventions and further defines the voids inside the enveloppe, sometimes attached, sometimes detached.

The front façade is reminiscent of old-world symmetrical proportions while the other three façades and rear roof slope are based on new-world needs.

The historical reference and the structure determined by the fire, combined, they introduce an ambiguous architectural language that is neither old nor moder

The interior spaces give hints of both contemporary construction and historical architecture Either the form is kept and the construction is changed, either the construction is kept and the form is changed.


Studio Alex Lehnerer, ETH

Project by: Gabriel Fiette, Sacha Rezzonico