Trying to comprehend a space by watching a photo taken from a publication implies an incomplete approach to them. The image could convey the most obvious concepts present in a space, but it takes a special degree of attention to discover its most subtle defining aspects. This attention is particularly relevant when we deal with two essential concepts: light and the passing of time.
Zecc´s works are characterized by the creation of clear, functional and sustainable spaces. In their refurbishment projects it is easy to spot a clear intention of valuing materials with a history and a chromatic study of the enclosing plans, which contribute to the creation of a pleasant feeling of hospitality.
However, a first superficial approach to the photographs of one of their projects, the restoration of a chapel in Utrecht to convert it into a house - nominated for the Dutch Design Award in 2008 - could show a different image of some of their principles. This is why it can serve to demonstrate the validity of the opening considerations.
From a seeming aesthetic minimalism to a useful poetry: the power of natural light
The images representing the first floor, where the chapel organ has been maintained and the floor is wooden, and those of the bedroom-bathroom, characterized by a dark background suitable for sleep and sensuality, are clearly representative of Zecc´s works.
Nevertheless, the general photographs and those of the ground floor, the most representative ones, show a series of images where the floor, walls and ceiling are completely painted in white. It is a space whose first appearance could be perceived as cold and not so homely, where materials such as the wood of the ceiling do not show their essence in their finishing, something very unusual in these Dutch architects' work. We could draw the conclusion that their intention is to achieve a minimalist and sophisticated place with no poetry.
An additional and more focused observation, however, denies this conclusion, identifying a subtle and delicate approach to illumination. If we look carefully, it is possible to observe that the white walls are those in which the original coloured leaded glasses are located, or those which receive their reflections. The white colour allows them to express in a more patent way. The leaded glasses achieve, thus, a higher colour contrast and their reflections move sharply on the continuous floor, showing with their position the movement of the sun and the passing of time.
Choosing white as a background for the walls that receive the light filtered through the loaded glasses is not the only decision that concerns light. The layout of several functions, their orientation, are meant to look for the light. Given this, the apparent aesthetic minimalism is at the same time functional and poetic, in other words: structural.
Hidden functional lighting, prevailing decorative lighting
The same sensitivity towards light and reflection which was applied to natural lighting was also used for artificial lighting, both functional and decorative. Functional lighting remains hidden, letting decorative lighting prevail. In the main space a hanging version of the Vistosi Giogali system, an Angelo Mangiarotti design, is discreetly integrated with the white background and well positioned, at the same level of the leaded glasses, so their Murano glass hooks interact with the light reflections.
These observations confirm that the appearance of a space can convey real concepts about it or, like in this case, a false cold sensation. In a clean and organized space it is possible to find a sensitivity towards an hedonist and refined way of life. But it is necessary to observe with a greater attention to realize there is something more: a space which enshrines poetic elements that surely will be enhanced when the owners move in with books, plants... life.