The Villa B in Ciutadella on the island of Menorca in Spain is an example of a project of transformation in which an old structure in the heart of a historical city is turned into a villa of contemporary standards. The Villa B is located within the very dense urban fabric in the heart of the historical city. It is built on the remains of an abandoned skeletal structure of a building that had fallen into ill repair. By repairing parts of the existing structure and adding a new layer of architecture to it, the project transforms the remnants of the old building into a modern villa that meets the contemporary standards of living. In the renovation and transformation of the Villa B, the new and the old meet each other in an interesting dialogue. Dealing with the theme of creating something new by bringing old and new layers of architecture together, the Villa B is set in the context of the historical city of Ciutadella with roots dating back to the time of the Carthaginians. It is a city rich in culturally and historically valuable sites on the island of Menorca. Recognized by Unesco as a natural biosphere reserve, the island hosts a remarkable diversity of Mediterranean habitats in which rare animal species and plants live, some of them in threat of extinction. With its almost 1,000 archaeological sites and 300 Talayotic villages, Menorca is currently working towards a World Heritage Site status. The facades and exteriors facing the street including the roofs of the building of Villa B are landmark protected as part of the historical old city. The division of spaces directly linked with the lobby at the entrance as well as the stairs leading up from the central space on the ground floor are also protected. In the course of centuries, the building had been used as a dwelling for multiple families. Over time, many layers of various elements from spatial dividers to dropped ceilings and technical systems as well as garage spaces and other makeshift sheds in the yard had been added to the building to serve the changing needs of its residents in different time periods resulting in a complex and crowded spatial arrangement and dark rooms with little daylight. Finally, the building was abandoned as a structure no longer fit to serve as housing for families and it stood empty for many years. Making use of the remains of the old building, the foundation for the renovated villa was formed by carefully peeling off layers that had been added to the original structure over time. Making full use of the potential offered by the original structure, the building was carefully restored and renovated. Highlighting the qualities of the original building, as much as possible of the existing structure was restored and the new elements introduced were kept to a minimum. The two taller parts of the building on the sides were restored with minimal interventions, with the biggest alterations concentrated in the middle section. The drop ceilings made of plastic materials, the dividing partition walls, and the garage sheds on the yard that had been added over the years were all removed and the original structure with its brick walls, arched ceilings and staircases were uncovered. The layers of old and new have deliberately been left visible in the varied textures of the surfaces. A new spatial program was created and a new sense of connection between the interior spaces and the outdoors was established. Shared spaces such as the kitchen and dining area as well as the library and lounge area are placed on the ground floor and in the middle part of the building. Bedrooms with their private bathrooms are placed in the taller parts of the building on the upper floors. Three stairways of different character form a skeletal structure that connects the more public lower floors and the more private upper floors together into one unity. The landmark protected central stairway leading up from the entrance lobby in the middle was carefully restored to its original design. A new wooded stairway with a skylight was created to lead up to more private part of the house with the bedrooms in the upper floors, and a new stairway skillfully crafted of local stone leads down to the basement. Thanks to the division between the shared spaces and the more private rooms, multiple families or groups may conveniently use the house at the same time. The formerly cramped and dark indoor spaces were turned into spacious rooms with generous openings and a lot of light. New windows were opened, balconies were provided for the bedrooms in the upper floors and with a full wall of sliding glass doors, the ground floor spaces open out to the yard and to the terrace creating a seamless transition between the interior and the exterior that allows the life in the house to extend out. There is a pool on the yard to provide comfort in the summer months, and wooden shutters create shading for the balconies to shelter the bedrooms from heat and to provide an intermediary zone between indoors and outdoors. According to the time of the year, it is also possible to close off the spaces to create a more compact unit. The materials have been consciously chosen to be sustainable and enduring. In the new parts, local stone from a quarry nearby and Nordic spruce complement each other forming an interesting pair of materials of contrasting nature. Wood is used in the doors and window frames as well as in the ceilings in rooms where new ceilings were necessary. Solar energy is used for heating and cooling the house.
OOPEAA works on a wide range of projects from churches and public buildings to housing and urban visions. There is an active focus on research and development with an emphasis on solutions that support social and ecological sustainability. For OOPEAA, the goal in architecture is to create better life. In their work, a sense of care, an attitude of curiosity and an understanding of the context are key. Combining a sculptural form with traditional materials and innovative techniques, OOPEAA brings together new ideas with experience and a sense of respect for tradition and locality. Their architecture finds its inspiration in the state of being in between, between urban and rural; between a deep respect for tradition and an appreciation of the contemporary; rooted in the local and yet part of a larger international context. The work of OOPEAA has been recognised with some of the highest merits achievable both in Finland and internationally including the Finlandia Prize for Architecture.