Big Space, Little Space, Buffalo

Designed by: Davidson Rafailidis
For client: Private Floor area: 43.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for: Small Apartment of the Year

Public Score
4.80 Function
5.00 Innovation
5.00 Creativity
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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph showing interior view of “Little Space,” insulated, and with residential finishes and amenities, contrasted against the “Big Space” of the rougher, uninsulated workshop and outdoor garden. Floor-to-ceiling oak shelving sits behind curtains.

About the Project

Big Space, Little Space is the adaptive re-use of a clay tile garage built in the 1920’s into a dwelling and workshop, tucked away in the middle of a residential block in Buffalo, New York.

Instead of designing fresh, new spaces and interventions, existing forms/spaces are reinterpreted. An existing, partitioned area within the garage space that was recently used by a general contractor as an office was retained. This “Little Space” was reinterpreted as the overlap between two bigger, existing spaces: the fenced garden and the garage/workshop. The “Little Space” can be read as part of both, – it can extend into both. The reading of the plan flickers between these different configurations.

Big Space, Little Space offers spaces that are in flux, where inhabitation can retreat into the insulated "Little Space" in winter, and can spread into the “Big Spaces” – the generous garden, workshop, and roof deck in warmer seasons. The living area varies therefore between 43m2 to 480m2. There is no stationary plan. The spaces are rather offerings for temporary and informal uses.

The building is seen here as an animate thing with a lively past and an unknown future, where the intervention is just one of many. The space was not ‘remodeled’ to eliminate its messy past, but rather added to in a similar way to participants in the surrealist game, the Exquisite Corpse.

What’s unique about it

Functionality: Over time buildings stray from their original programs and develop lives of their own. Even in the timespan of a single year spaces can offer changing qualities that require users to engage with them in different ways. Big Space, Little Space, takes this transformative nature of space as its premise. Rather than dictating uses for designated spaces, a variety of spaces that can trigger unexpected uses are offered.

Innovation: The resulting wide range of finishes and materials, from the raw, cut bricks at the entry door, to highly refined surfaces and materials like the white oak cabinetry, creates an open, transient and generous architecture where our intervention integrates with those of the past as well as ones that will surely come in the future.

Artistic Merit: We sought to develop a novel formal language by reinterpreting existing forms similar to the Surrealist art practice of the Exquisite Corpse.

Sustainability: The most sustainable building is the one that does not get built. By reusing the building we minimized waste and construction work.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph showing the building exterior as viewed from the garden. The entry door opening was enlarged and a 23 foot wide retractable awning was installed, with a 13 foot cantilever, transforming the garden into an exterior room and providing more privacy.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph showing both the built-in and moveable furniture elements constructed to accommodate personal belongings in the “Little Space.” White oak shelving can be revealed or concealed with a wall of curtains (left). Moveable wardrobes use a combination

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© Florian Holzherr

Detail of the closing mechanism of the oak cabinetry.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph of existing workshop space with new toplight and ventilation and new stair providing access to the Big Roof through a roof hatch with an acrylic dome, which doubles as a skylight.

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© Florian Holzherr

View from Big Workshop through the Little Space into the Big Garden.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph showing the wall-hung compact kitchen zone, detail of the powder coated ss frame, ss countertop, and oak inserts with acrylic doors and the kitchen counter and storage unit within the broader context of the “Little Space”.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photographs showing the wall-hung compact kitchen zone, detail of the powder coated ss frame, ss countertop, and oak inserts with acrylic doors.

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© Florian Holzherr

Photograph showing entry to bathroom, skylight over the shower and curved shower channel and wall-mounted enamelled sink, toilet, and storage behind mirrored doors.

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© Florian Holzherr

Like the kitchen counter and storage, bathroom elements are wall-mounted because the century-old concrete floor slab is very uneven.

Location of project:
Davidson Rafailidis

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