(SPOT.ph) What do you do if you have an ancestral home but you need to move it out of its old location? For one family in San Juan City, subdividing their lot meant an impending demolition of the 98-year-old heritage house that stood on it. Their solution: Dismantle the house piece by piece, and transfer it to a new lot that's 200 meters away.
The massive house conservation (and relocation) project of Villa Floro was taken on by Architect Gerard Lico and his Arc Lico team, who specialize in the heritage conservation of Philippine structures, including Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Malate and Arkong Bato in Valenzuela. Lico took time to conserve the house’s materials, the original configuration of its rooms, and its American-colonial-infused bahay-na-bato façade, while integrating new spaces fit for modern living, and rebuilding it on a sturdier foundation.
An Ancestral House along P. Guevarra Street
According to Villa Floro homeowner Amanda Barretto-Lim in a video on Facebook, the house was built by her maternal grandfather Floro Santos in 1924. It was the first house on P. Guevarra (then called Foch Street) in Little Baguio, San Juan City, and was built according to the domestic and hygienic standards imposed by the American authorities of that period. The house survived World War II; but decades later, with the lot being subdivided, the current owners decided to relocate and rebuild the home in 2018 instead of demolishing it.
According to Arc Lico head of publications and research John Brian de Asis, Villa Floro pre-restoration "[...] was generally what you’d expect for a house that was lived in for nearly a hundred years. It wasn’t exactly decrepit or dilapidated, as it was continuously and presently lived-in. However, the layers of interventions—the little changes and repairs affected by the users over time—cluttered the house and obscured the house’s rustic elegance."
Reassembling This San Juan Ancestral House Like a Puzzle
What transpired in the three-year-long project was a sort of bayanihan-like move, heritage conservation-style. Instead of having the townsfolk lift the house up on their shoulders, Architect Lico had the structure disassembled, with each wooden post, window, floor plank, and other pieces meticulously labeled, transported 200 meters away to the new site, and then painstakingly reassembled on a modern concrete-and-steel skeleton.
"Many of the house’s components could be treated modularly as it was mostly made of wood, so it was like turning the whole house into a large jigsaw puzzle," says De Asis, explaining the process. "The parts were labeled according to their location in the house, documented, and then dismantled. Once it was time to reassemble, we tried to fit back in the parts that were numbered. However, the tricky bit was getting the parts to fit again. This required a lot of patience and skillful woodwork."
Nostalgic Filipino Design with Modern Touches
Of course, a household’s living requirements from 1924 are not the same as those in 2022. And so while the main spaces such as the living and dining rooms were left in the same configuration, many modern spaces and conveniences were added. The Arc Lico team, working with interior designer Vanessa Gaston Copeland, landscape architect Marco Ortiz, interior contractor Dominique Mayordomo, and general contractor AADG Construction created new spaces for a 21st-century family.
These include a new six-car garage, a gym, an art gallery, a music room, and a modern kitchen since the homeowner’s son loves to cook. "The approach was to build the additional spaces to the back of the house so that the visual impact of the added structure would be minimized," De Asis says.
"The new structure had to follow the width of the original structure, and the other spaces were integrated vertically, with the addition of an attic for the gallery space and a basement for the auditorium. We patterned the additional openings…after the existing ones so that they blend with the rest of the exterior elements."
The end result is an ancestral home that has a nostalgic flavor with modern-day touches. Villa Floro’s original wood, including the flooring, stairs, capiz windows, and tiles were all used in its rebuilt state. The designers and the homeowners integrated contemporary furniture and Filipino artwork seamlessly into the home’s thoroughly Filipino interiors.
Architect Lico stresses that the "[...] project is a testament to the feasibility of moving old houses and infusing it with contemporary use and technology while honoring the past." Homeowner Barretto-Lim says that "neighbors have welcomed this house warmly; they say it is like an oasis in a concrete jungle." She adds that: "My hope is for this house to serve as an inspiration for others to preserve their houses; [and] that old houses can be livable."
All photos courtesy of Arc Lico.