Defend slow architecture with Manea Kella
Casa Popeea, a hotel in Romania, is a recent competition from London-based architecture studio Manea Kella and represents the firm’s take on slow architecture; a movement that favors craftsmanship, simplicity, terroir and sustainable architecture
Manea Kella is a champion of slow architecture. The movement, which fosters an appreciation for craftsmanship, simplicity, locality and sustainable architecture, ultimately leads to better buildings and improves people’s lives, say directors of London-based architecture studio Adrian Manea and Elena Kella: “We believe that thoughtful architecture and design benefits society and is a force for social good – whatever its scale, architecture has the potential to shape and transform society for the better.
The emerging studio recently completed Casa Popeea, renovating a stately, historic townhouse in Romania to transform it into a boutique hotel. The project was carried by everything slow movement represents and has now opened its doors to the public. Here we catch up with Manea Kella to learn more about Casa Popeea, the firm’s work and how to achieve “slow” architecture.
Wallpaper *: You have described your work and Casa Popeea as “slow architecture”. Can you tell us more about this approach?
Manea Kella: Our perception of this term, “slow architecture”, or better called “good architecture”, considers people to be at the forefront of design – we believe that the only role of an architect is to design buildings in which people can lead a decent life, whether used for work, life or play. The “slow” movement of architecture is dedicated to simplicity, to the adaptation of buildings to nature and to people, and to the production of evolving buildings.
Casa Popeea is a project that transforms a single-family home into a hotel, reusing this historic building through carefully selected materials, construction techniques, the use of light and the creation of charm, while balancing this with contemporary needs. of its customers. We believe that this project will offer a new reflection on future development in the historic Hellenic district of Brăila, Romania.
W *: How to apply a “slow” approach to an architectural project?
MK: This movement has been called “slow architecture” by a thought that encompasses buildings produced locally from local materials and craftsmanship. Architects have long called for the return of architectural craftsmanship and a more local context for buildings. At Manea Kella, we are concerned with creating architecture that is rich in character and distinct in identity. We study historical and vernacular precedents to better inform our response to projects. We strive to create buildings that last and can adapt. In a fast-paced and sometimes thoughtless trading industry, we pride ourselves on our ingrained approach and direct relationship with the application and construction of materials. Considerations of local identity and a sense of belonging go hand in hand with our conviction to create sustainable places.
W *: Can slow architecture work for any project, or any type? And what makes Casa Popeea a perfect candidate for it?
MK: Well, there is an argument that considering materials, end users and consumption is what architects do anyway – “slow architecture” should be an architect’s job description in the first place. . Conservation through modernization is perhaps the most environmentally sustainable approach in the entire construction industry. Modernization of buildings typically results in significantly lower initial emissions than demolition and reconstruction due to the carbon incorporated into existing structures. In addition, we believe that this project can demonstrate sustainability in a cultural, social and economic sense as well. Heritage buildings in Romanian city centers have long been overlooked due to a complex set of economic, legal and bureaucratic issues.
W *: What are the gestures and materials that define the space of Casa Popeea?
MK: The restoration and repair of the existing tissue was motivated by the idea that the original structure should be emphasized in its original spatial context and materiality – the new reflects what is lost without imitating it. The compressed and dark tinted palette of the reception, lobby and cafe, with stained solid oak floors, custom joinery and furniture, opens up to a bright stairwell. The building’s original oak staircase has been meticulously restored, guiding you to the quiet dorms above. Carpenters from Transylvania were called upon for their expertise and full-size 1: 1 models participated in rigorous design workshops.
Our spa design aims to create a sequence of restful spaces, using a refined palette of natural materials including Bulgarian limestone, black marble and stained solid oak, which work harmoniously to create an intimate environment. The architecture of the spa aims to transport the visitor from the busy raised ground floor to a calm and thoughtful indoor environment that invites a feeling of reflection and relaxation. Lighting openings in the ceiling and through the window louvers provide the subtle sensation of cool light outside and also bring out the reflective quality of natural stone and the warmth of solid oak.
W *: What’s the next “slow” project on your list?
MK: We are delighted to be working on an intriguing project in the historic heart of Bucharest, Romania. Originally designed by architect Dimitrie Hârjeu (chief architect of Bucharest 1910-1916) in a French neoclassical style, the building is located near Cismigiu Park on Mihail Kogalniceanu Boulevard. It was built in 1914 as a private residence measuring approximately 1000 m² and then served as the headquarters of the Gestapo and the German Embassy until 1944. After 1990 it was occupied by the film production company local Rofilm. Our brief will involve retaining the commercial use of the building and we will explore options to transform it into a successful 21st century workplace that could offer choice and a balance between ways of working. The post-pandemic world will be different, and this project offers an excellent opportunity for a thoughtful, adaptable and sustainable response. §