By Rachel Fischbach, Principal, BraytonHughes Design Studios
We are often asked by clients to help them rebuild after a devastating event. Whether it’s a fire, flood, earthquake, or other disaster, how do you pick up the pieces and start to rebuild? Below are the three things we always ask ourselves when designing a new project, which hold true when rebuilding one, too:
1. What is the story that we want to create?
The original Casa Dorinda in Santa Barbara, California, for example, was a grand estate built in the early 1900s, and though the property had been restored recently, the adjacent dining room that was built in the 1970s did not connect to the Spanish revival style of the estate. We, therefore, took design cues from the original Casa and tried to seamlessly blend the spaces, which is reflected in the furnishings, color palette, architectural details, and iron lighting.
Ventana Big Sur, also in California, has been a cherished establishment since the 1970s, so we wanted to stay true to the roots of the property’s original design and to the travelers who have visited the property over the years. For the redesign, we created custom leather desk blotters that are embossed with quotes by famous authors about what Big Sur meant to them, encompassing the spirit of the area and creating a unique sense of place.
2. Does the building or environment say anything to us?
The environment in a any given project always pushes us to balance and harmonize the design in its context. Understanding the environmental opportunities that are offered is a vital scope in any of the projects we work on.
3. What are the desires of the client?
Is there a story or history that they would like to convey to their guests through the design and architecture of the space? Clients know their desires subconsciously, so we try to ask them questions and provoke them with imagery to make sure we are on the same page.
Disasters are emotional, and rebuilding efforts can add to the stress and grief that looms months after. For owners of buildings that are beloved by the public, such as wineries, restaurants, and hotels, there are strong feelings of obligation to make sure that the new structure lives up to and even exceeds its previous establishment. Knowing this, we not only reach out to the client but also to the broader community to know what was successful in the previous establishment and what could be improved upon. We are always looking to pay homage to the cherished moments that gave the building a heart.
The biggest advantages we have to rebuilding is making improvements that might not have been available when the building was first built. We can design in safety features, such as emergency generators for temporary power. We also have an opportunity to rebuild code compliant structures that didn’t exist before. We can use sustainable materials as well as materials that might have a better chance at surviving a disaster.
As the saying goes, with lemons you make lemonade. That is what we try to do when disaster strikes.