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Eluding Dream: Dodged House by Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide

Eluding Dream: Dodged House by Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide

Dodged House by Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide Ph. Dylan Perrenoud

The crisis that hit Portugal ten years ago has produced a density of abandoned spaces. The two main cities, Porto and Lisbon offered a landscape of ruins and closed buildings that charmed an international community looking for a southern romanticism. Since then, the two cities have acted and reacted to renew their historical centers and a good quantity of these abandoned houses have been renovated. One such building is the Dodged House in Lisbon by Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide. Paying tribute to the 19th-century work built in California by Irving Gill, however, the design set off on a different path than the usual renovations that were being done.

Ph. Dylan Perrenoud

The situation has evolved in Lisbon at a fast pace. The city center’s reconstruction has opened their eyes to welcome an aggressive Airbnb economy, re-creating a well-known phenomenon that other cities in Europe have already gone through. Renovations often bear a similar signature, creating qualitative and sensitive interventions that are very marketable, which seems to be the most important indicator of a successful architecture in this context.  

Two hundred years ago, at the turn of the 19th century, an architect looking for a healthier climate drove down from cold Chicago to California to start his practice in San Diego. He had been a draughtsman in the most influential office of the time, Sullivan’s, and had worked under the direction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s team for the now historical iconic Transport Building. Irving Gill began, in this journey, an astonishing creative career as an inventor and an understated avant-garde artist.  

The story is interesting when considered in the context of what is happening in Portugal. Today’s immediacy of images and actions featuring newly renovated interiors is hardly comparable to the time of Gill; his architecture had to wait until Esther McCoy wrote the now well-known publication Five California Architects in 1960 to be acknowledged and celebrated. It was Reyner Banham, some years later, who showed this work to the international public in his book, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.  

Despite this late success, the destruction of one of his main works, The Dodge House, could not be avoided, even though there was a strong campaign carried out by Esther McCoy to save this historical icon.  

The Dodged House in Lisbon pays a double tribute. On one hand, it acknowledges Irving Gill’s architecture. The very particular modernity that he established as the basis of his practice seems to perfectly echo the Portuguese context: in the same way, Gill’s architecture was understood to develop from the Missions in California.  

On the other hand, as a trace of the time in which Dodged House was designed and built, it has preferred to keep its eyes closed and its façade opaque. It bets on a less marketable feature: a space, a void, an interior volume that refuses efficiency. Within a rather small plot (around 94 m2 in total), Dodged House has privileged a string section and a contemplative void, proposing a diversity of interior-exterior spaces that extend into a courtyard. 

The project also responds to the complexity of functional requirements that has turned the house into a machine à habiter, playing again, quite deliberately, with the history of modernism and its inhabitable typologies.

Ph. Dylan Perrenoud

In the end, Dodged House is a simple and readable project. Although it might be complex in its inscription into the urban fabric and historical context, it is nevertheless quite straightforward in the way it occupies space and distributes its program in a small plot. As its names indicate, Dodged House attempts to elude, to trick, an actual state of a certain architecture in Lisbon.

DATE: 2019 / LOCATION: Lisbon, Portugal / AREA: 94 m2 (built) / PROGRAM: house / STATUS: built / DESIGN: Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide / PHOTOS: Dylan Perrenoud   

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