Space for Something / Davidson Rafailidis

Text description provided by the architects. Space for Something is about the stillness in a space without a business. At first, it may seem like a lack, as if the space is incomplete. But what we learned from this space is that it retains viability during a lapse.  Without an official use, the space just “is.” It is unsupervised and unguided by an overarching plan until a conventional routine takes over, opening hours are set, furniture arrives, and the security system gets hooked up and turned on. It’s rarely discussed, this time when architecture’s not on display, but it’s precisely during these lapses when the program-independent, long-lasting, and raw spatial character shines through. Spatial character for any use, a Space for Something. 

Space for Something / Davidson Rafailidis - Interior Photography, Chair
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This project involved the renovation and addition of a small restaurant that a kitchen fire had damaged. Deemed a “total loss,” cleaning up the damage and assessing the integrity of the remaining structure was the first phase in the prolonged process of rehabilitating the space. The renovated interior retains all the elements that were intact, including the simple, front/back divide in the layout. The main change to the building was made to the front façade, where the original brick had been damaged from construction adhesive used for a decorative EIFS façade applied in the ‘80s. 

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Following the idea of the unpredictable life chapters of buildings, we focused on the long-term, program-independent spatial ideas addressing the relationship between interior space and a rough and tumble, heavily trafficked streetscape. Larger openings were introduced, including two doors, to support the possibility of subdividing the interior space in two at some point, as it had been in decades past. A generous folding-sliding façade connects the existing interior to a new outdoor patio, defined and guarded by a hefty new clay block privacy wall.

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Space for Something / Davidson Rafailidis - Interior Photography, Windows

The outdoor space is an unlikely addition in a heavily trafficked, suburban context, but is meant to respond to the long-term urban context (rather than the temporal priorities in project briefs), the pedestrian life that lingers on the corner due to a bus stop and a residential block in behind the commercials strip. A patchwork of distinct clay bricks (yellow, gray, red and brown, small and large) and a varied ice cream color palette create an idiosyncratic spatial character within a tight budget, following the frugal approach of Bruno Taut.

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The space, tentatively outfitted to offer a new chapter to a longstanding Chinese restaurant, was closed for a long time while the owners considered what to do and how to reboot the business. The prolonged testing period/closure became the ideal time to capture the basic spatial character of this stripped-down, unfurnished Space for Something and the humblest set of architectural relations: a pendant light hooked tentatively on a wall, a chair placed temporarily in the corner, the (somehow always present) trash bin, and the natural light generously occupying the space whether or not anyone was there.

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