What Lies Beneath

By September 18, 2020 architecture, business

I always tell clients to be ready for a surprise any time they’re doing a renovation. You never know what the previous owners have done during their own renovations. Or the people before them. But always expect something.

Entire windows left inside walls. Flooring on top of flooring on top of flooring that explains the inch difference between the dining room and kitchen. Or the live electrical wires abandoned in the wall when they converted from traditional switches to home automation.

However, a home in London renovated by David Adjaye has anything I’ve seen beat hands down.

The home’s previous owner was dubbed Mole Man for having excavated tunnels beneath his home. And nothing squatty, like smuggling tunnels that cross the US border from Mexico. We’re talking 8 meters tall with apparently enough room for a boat and some cars.

Who does that? And where did all the dirt go? I’ve been involved in projects here where clients wanted underground parking or a basement, requiring a very serious conversation about how much rock they’ll be digging through to make that happen. That one man created not a tunnel but a series of tunnels is hard to wrap your head around.

My publicist’s office is in the Adolphus Tower in downtown Dallas and for a couple of years, they’ve been living through a very extensive renovation both inside and out. As irritating working in a construction zone was, he was still fascinated by what was being uncovered on the exterior. Not uncommon for buildings in a downtown area. The 50s and 60s were not kind to the old brick facades, and there are a lot of aluminum panels hiding a lot of history.

But I think the London house has even the Adolphus beat. The resulting renovation took advantage of the space below and created a truly unique space, which you can check out here. Unfortunately, there aren’t any photos of the tunnels before the authorities filled them in.

And I think the next time a client is surprised by what lies beneath the drywall or above the ceiling, I’m just going to send them a link to the article. Then very gently remind them that the surprise could literally be beneath.

Cover Photo: Ed Reeve

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