Tag Archives: netherlands

V’ House

V' House in Maastricht, Netherlands, by Wiel Arets Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Wiel Arets Architects (WAA).

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

V’ House was constructed for a couple that collects vintage cars, and is stitched within the medieval tapestry of Maastricht. The city dictates all new structures remain within the envelope of pre-existing buildings, and so a cut was created in the house’s front façade to generate a triangulated surface, which leads from one neighbor’s sloped roof to the opposite neighbor’s vertical bearing wall. As the house’s site is long and narrow, voids were cut into the maximum permitted volume to ensure that natural light spills throughout the interior. The ground floor is both open to the exterior elements and sunken to the rear of the site, which makes possible the maximum two-story height allowance. A covered portion of this exterior space serves as an outdoor parking garage for the owners’ collection of Aston Martins.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

As the house finds refuge between two historical buildings, it is a burst of modernity within this currently gentrifying neighborhood of Maastricht. The house is enormous, totaling 530 m2, and is entered through two oversized sliding glass doors that perforate its front façade. These doors serve as the house’s main entry and open to either their left or right for entry by foot, and both simultaneously retract to allow the entry of automobiles. Due to safety and privacy concerns, these glass entry doors have no handles or keyholes and are instead are remotely opened from any iPhone, from anywhere in the world. For further privacy the house’s front façade was fritted with a gradient pattern of dots, which disperse in placement as the house rises towards the sky and focus at a distance to compose an image of curtains fluttering in the wind. Actual curtains align the interior of the front façade to afford additional privacy.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Circulation throughout the house occurs via two paths. A 'slow' stair leads from the ground floor to the expansive living room, which is connected to the partially raised kitchen and dining areas by a small ramp. A 'fast' stairwell traverses the entire height of the house and, together with the platform elevator, allows for direct vertical shortcuts to all levels of living. Thus this house, with its multiple circulation interventions, such as its living room ramp and ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ paths, is organized not around the traditional notion of stacked floors and is instead organized around its circulatory section. At the apex of this 'fast' route is the entrance to an expansive roof terrace that’s also the most public space of the house, as it offers panoramic views over the spired roofline of Maastricht.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

The living room has been suspended from two I-beams that span two masonry bearing walls that surround the rear of the site. Steel tension rods measuring 5x10 cm extend from these I-beams into the almost fully glazed façade of the living room, which allows its volume to float above the Aston Martins below. For privacy reasons, this glazing was treated with a highly reflective coating that casts a hue of chartreuse or amber depending on the season and angle of the sun. Only when inhabiting the master bedroom is this hanging of the living room apparent, as the I-beams are visible from the master bedroom, which opens onto the living room's roof, which functions as a private terrace for the owners.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Heating and cooling is provided via a concrete core activation system concealed within the floors and ceilings of the house, while all storage is built into the circulatory areas in order to divide spaces and define rooms. These custom designed storage units also outfit the office space, where they conceal a bed that can be lowered to accommodate temporary visitors, such as the owners' now grown children. All storage areas recede in prominence due to their fluid integration, which allows the house's interior to remain flexible and open for ephemeral definition. The one-piece custom designed kitchen was constructed in stainless steel, and the dining table, which is connected to it, cantilevers 3.5 m toward the front façade. The custom furnishings and storage spaces, together with the in-situ concrete and multiple roof terraces, make the V’ house an expression of free space in a regulated heritage context.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Building sections courtesy of WAA

Villa Nieuw Oosteinde

Villa Nieuw Oosteinde in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, by Engel Architecten, 2012.

Nieuw Oosteinde (New East End) is a new neighborhood in Aalsmeer, a town fairly close to Amsterdam. A quick glance at the website for the area reveals a mix of primarily traditional dwellings, where gables predominate regardless of type (single-family, semi-detached, rowhouse). Yet within this new/traditional neighborhood Engel Architecten has inserted a perfect cube of concrete, wood, and glass.

From certain angles, such as the photo at right, the house looks like it is only a cube, when in actuality it is made up of that volume and a small workshop on the side; both are linked by a glass corridor. Even as the architects describe the house as a cube, its materiality forces a reading of something else, something striated with a wood base, a tall upper story in concrete, and a band of glass in between. The roughly 1:3 ratio of wood/glass (if we combine them for simplicity's sake) to concrete comes about from the latter serving as guardrails for a roof terrace.

Inside, the house's square plan (10 meters per side) is pretty straightforward, split into four smaller squares. On the ground floor these relate to entrance, living, dining, and kitchen, even as the last three are one continuous L-shaped space. Powder room, storage, and stairs share the entry square, the last heading up to three square bedrooms and the stair's square shared by a full bathroom. Large windows are located on one side of each bedroom and the bathroom, pinwheeling about the plan such that each exterior expanse of precast concrete panels are exactly the same.

Besides the workshop, the only other "violation" of the cube is the rooftop projection clad in wood. Housing the stair and some storage, this volume naturally allows access to the roof terrace, whose definition through the concrete panels leads one's eyes to the sky and treetops. Photographed with fake grass and some outdoor furniture, this space is reminiscent of a Le Corbusier rooftop (you know, that one). Beyond this superficial comparison, the roof terrace nicely "takes back" the ground that it sits upon—one of Corbu's Five Points—giving the residents something that the neighboring gabled houses can't have.

Architecture in the Netherlands: Yearbook 2011-12

Architecture in the Netherlands: Yearbook 2011-12 edited by Samir Bantal, JaapJan Berg, Kees van der Hoeven, Anne Luijten
NAi Publishers, 2012
Paperback, 272 pages

The annual Architecture in the Netherlands Yearbook started in 1987/88, making the most recent one the 25th installment. Accordingly it is treated as a special edition, much bigger than previous yearbooks and further taking a look back to its origins. In addition to the usual 30 projects highlighting the best buildings in the Netherlands realized in the last ten months, number 25 features 10 projects from the previous 24 issues and an essay by one of the first editors.

An important inclusion is a chart of all of the Dutch architects with more than two projects in the 25 issues, accompanied by an essay that gives context and helps make more sense of the year-by-year tally. The architects with the most appearances are no surprise: Erick van Egeraat (22), Claus en Kaan (21), Jo Coenen (16), Francine Houben/Mecanoo (15), as well as Weil Arets and a handful of others at 14. Ultimately the books, and therefore the list, are editorial and therefore subjective; the yearbook has been helmed by six editors for various timeframes. But the list of architects, places, and typologies manages to capture the important qualities of Dutch architecture at a time when paradoxically its influence has been great but its most well known architects (OMA, MVRDV) have shifted focus to other countries.

There are a number of highlights in the 30 2011/12 projects — Claus en Kaan's NIOO-KNAW, Erick van Egeraat's Drents Museum, NL Architects' Nieuw Welgelegen Gymnasium, Soeters van Eldonk's Zaanstad Town Hall, and Koen van Velsen's Paleis Het Loo entrance building — but the 10 buildings from the previous issues are the highlight of the book. The six editors worked together to determine which buildings made the cut, only a few of which are obvious: Rem Koolhaas's Kunsthal, UNStudio's Moebius House, and Wiel Arets' Utrecht University Library. Given the speed at which buildings are published today and forgotten tomorrow, it's refreshing to see a recap of notable buildings that are still thoroughly contemporary (not limited to the last few years in a more literal sense of the term). Accordingly, the essays accompanying the photos and drawings on the ten buildings focus on the use and evolution of each building, not just its formal properties. With the 25th issue of the yearbook, the current editors step down, making way for some new blood and potentially a new direction for the next quarter century.

US: Buy from Amazon.com CA: Buy from Amazon.ca UK: Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Viewing Tower

Viewing Tower in Reusel, the Netherlands by Ateliereen architecten, 2009.

Six asymmetrically stacked boxes define this viewing platform that marks the entrance to a recreational area near the small town of Reusel in the Netherlands. About 50 such spots are marked in the country, but this tower designed by Ateliereen architecten is probably the most eye-catching marker, and maybe the most diverse in terms of function. In addition to marking an area to explore on foot, by mountain bike, or by horse, the 25-meter-high (82 feet) tower incorporates climbing and rappelling.

While the tower is asymmetrical, the cantilevered boxes are organized around a simple stair. This vertical circulation acts as a core, like much bigger towers, to provide access to three of the six cubes; at the top people can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding landscape. Speaking of core, the stair is also the place where the primary vertical structure is located. Standard steel sections, all galvanized, are used for columns and beams, the latter cantilevered from this middle. Steel is also used for guardrails and the floors (pressed plates), but the rest of the tower is wood.

While the steel structure allows for the height, the slender form, and the cantilevered boxes, it is the wood that gives the tower its character. The architects sourced the wood from the surrounding production forest, covering the various boxes in logs, halved and stripped. According to the architects, in this regard the tower is "an addition to the site, but also a local product." The exposure and orientation of the logs are also important, reinforcing the way the boxes rotate as they rise. From the bottom, the first and fourth boxes are special: the former features whole logs cut and exposed in their section; the latter runs the cut logs vertically, as if to visually connect the bottom and top with an upward swoop.

Added to one side of the tower is the gear for climbing. In the realm of the wood-covered, steel-structured tower, the colorful protrusions common to most climbing walls are an alien presence. It seems like a missed opportunity to not develop a means for climbing with their palette, mainly using the logs as a means to grab and ascend the tower. Regardless, this intervention is not major, and giving the tower more function than just viewing is one of the most commendable aspects of the project.

Shou Sugi Ban

Shou Sugi Ban in Maarn, Netherlands by BYTR Architects, 2010.

The monicker of this small house addition in Maarn, Netherlands, a town in the province of Utrecht, is a traditional Japanese method of burning cedar boards for a house's siding. Shou-sugi-ban, or yakisugi, is used to make the wood (sugi) resistant to fire and insects. The technique has been recently popularized in contemporary houses by Terunobu Fujimori, such as in the aptly named Yakisugi House. Rotterdam-based BYTR Architects has used the technique to give the addition its distinctive "deep black glow," while making the exterior maintenance free.

The addition, which consists primarily of a kitchen and dining area, wraps a one-story "L" around a square, two-story 1950s brick house. Therefore the addition faces the backyard and the side yard, with a small portion facing the street. The architects shaped the volume at the roof so it rises from the ends to a high point at the corner, where a small but strategically placed skylight brings plenty of light over the kitchen.

Four openings are located in the rear and side walls, each treated with white frames that stand out from the burnt vertical cedar boards and look like the interior has spilled outside a little bit. Each window is also carefully sized and located to work with the interior and provide views outside: A squarish aperture at eye-level sits between the kitchen's two work surfaces; a horizontal opening is placed low next to the dining table; another horizontal window is at eye level on the perpendicular wall, on axis with an opening that connects old and new; and sliding glass doors are at one end of the "L" by the open living area.

One reason that the shou-sugi-ban is appropriate here is in the way it wraps all of the addition's exterior surfaces, not just the walls. It extends over the roof, and therefore gives the residents a view of the charred surface from their second-floor windows; the unique facade is not just for the neighbors to look at. The material and technique are versatile enough to be used on the various surfaces, some of them angled, offering the residents a worry-free addition that is as sculptural as it is functional.

Netherlands Institute for Ecology

Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen, Netherlands by Claus en Kaan Architecten, 2011.

In the influential book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue that recycling is in effect "downcycling," since the quality of the material is degraded. Instead they push for "upcycling," where the material, such as a plastic, is after use turned from, say, a bottle back into a bottle. This type of recycling, keyed to the chemistry of the materials in the things we make, theoretically produces a closed loop, hence the cradle-to-cradle (c2c) moniker. According to Claus en Kaan Architecten their design for the NIOO-KNAW is based on the c2c concept.

NIOO-KNAW is a research institute that sits on the campus of Wageningen University, but falls under the aegis of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The institute's main building houses laboratories, offices, a restaurant and an auditorium; some smaller separate buildings are used for botanical and zoological research, and the compact site also contains test beds and ponds. The main building, shown here, is a long, rectangular two-story building that is oriented a few degrees off of true north-south. The primary elevation, above and at left and right, faces west; behind the glass wall are laboratories that are shaded by continuous wood canopies that wrap the two short sides.

The compact building ... generates an enormous amount of space that stands for the most important principle of the building: informal encounters. -Claus en Kaan Architecten

The other long edge of the building -- photo at left, the facade facing east and the secondary buildings and the test beds/ponds -- is where the offices are located on both floors. These offices are also located behind expansive glass walls, but sun control is via operable exterior shades, and the glass includes natural ventilation and is framed with wood mullions, whereas the other sides feature butt-glazed glass walls that span from floor to ceiling. The two exterior expressions are unified by materials but also the large wood-slat cap that houses a conference room and canteen, and provides access to a roof terrace.

This wood penthouse hints at the core of the building, the zone between the west-facing labs and east-facing offices. Here we find support laboratories, restrooms, and other support and service spaces, as well as horizontal and vertical circulation. The corridors ring the support spaces, and people are afforded glimpses into the labs and offices. The stairs are located in atrium spaces that brings sunlight to the middle of the building. This simple plan of perimeter and center rooms rung by corridors, all punctured by atria lit from above, gives the building a strong internal focus that jibes with the architects' desire to spur informal encounters. Likewise the glass perimeter links the labs and offices to the larger site, giving some awareness of the part they and their building plays in the larger environmental context.

Steigereiland Kavel 114

Steigereiland Kavel 114 in Amsterdam, Netherlands by Architoop, 2007.

Steigereiland is an infill island in the eastern district of Lake IJsselmeer. It has been developed as a low-scale, mixed-use neighborhood comprised of small lots (6m x 25m; 20' x 80') with buildings around 3-5 stories. The resulting fabric is fine-grain and extremely varied, with bold contemporary expressions in brick, wood, concrete, and glass. It's like a blank canvas filled by Dutch architects with few restrictions.

This project at the T-intersection of Jan Olphert Vaillantlaan and Gerald Hulst van Keulenstraat was developed by the de Landman-Hesselink family as a single-family residence with two office/studio spaces. Spread across five floors, a fashion designer's studio occupies the ground floor, an architecture studio is one floor above, and "a comfortable living space" sits on top. The small mixed-use project (280sm; 3,000sf) was designed by Amsterdam's Architoop. (The architects and studio PLOT occupy the two studio spaces.)

Two distinguishing characteristics are predominant in the identity to be developed for Steigereiland: the presence of large-scale urban and landscape elements, and the concept of self-commissioned housing ... As far as possible, jobs on most islands will be mixed in with housing. -Masterplan Steigereiland

Tying these functions together in the five-story container is the South African slate that covers the front and rear facades. These shingles have a unique appearance from their composition: they are held apart from their neighbors and stagger as they overlap. This gives the stone skin an appearance like fish scales or like a fabric. Subtle variety in this homogeneous wrapper comes in the form of the window openings, which vary in size and orientation based on the spaces behind. On both the front and rear facades, the studio spaces are tied together in a double-height expression, while none of the windows for the residence repeat. The slate shingles actually wrap into the windows, giving the impression that the openings are cut into the stone skin.

Inside the palette is sparse -- concrete floors/ceilings, white stucco walls, powder coated steel railings -- congealing into what the architects' call "a light industrial accent." Here we can see the relationship between the spaces and the windows, especially in the residence: the bedrooms and bathrooms are given smaller openings, while ribbon windows frame the open living floor. Also of note are the setback and terraced top floor and stairs, which combine to bring a lot of natural light into the three-floor residence.

Hermit’s House

Hermit's House in Deventer, Netherlands by The Cloud Collective, 2010.

Like many young firms today, The Cloud Collective eschews the traditional model and appearance of the sole architect-genius presiding over a design, an impression born of the media more than the reality of design and construction. They call themselves "a social, open and creative party ... a rich variety of people who are practicing their creative skills and talents in different places in Europe." Hermit's House, on the floodplains of the Ijssel River is attributed to Mark van der Net (Groningen, Netherlands) and Daniël Venneman (Madrid, Spain).

Hermit's House is a garden retreat, an open design that allows it to be a lounge, guest room, exhibition space, studio, teahouse, what have you. At only 9sm (95 sf) it is basically the size of a bedroom, but its shape is like a crumpled shoebox. In plan it is formed by two overlapping squares turned 45 degrees to the entrance door. A half of another square extends itself on the exterior to become a small porch embraced by projecting walls and walls and roof.

I wish that man will try to build houses for themselves and future generations, not much bigger than his body, which can catch all his imagination and thoughts, that he devotes his genius to a work of adaptation, not exaggeration - or at least that he acknowledges the limits of the body that supports him. -Francis Ponge in "Notes pour un Coquillage," 1932

The above quote is the architects' motto, understandable for such a small project located in the client's garden. A standard shed may also have been lacking in exaggeration, but it surely wouldn't have accommodated the user's imagination and thoughts. A simple rectangular space may seem to maximize the square footage of a small footprint, but the demarcation of two spaces sets up opportunities for different uses and relationships. This pinch is reminiscent of a small cabin in Belgium that opts to use walls to make a small space more intimate by making two spaces.

The project was built by the architects themselves with prefabricated panels, based on standard dimensions of materials. This is particularly evident on the exterior, its plywood sheets broken by narrow vertical windows. The architects hope to develop similar designs that utilize prefab construction towards the goal of autarkic building. At only 5,000 Euros, the out building is certainly affordable (less than $70/sf), so future designs are just about a guarantee, something I look forward to after seeing this small gem.

City Library Helmond

City Library Helmond in Helmond, Netherlands by BOLLES+WILSON, 2010.

See also this week's book review, BOLLES+WILSON: A Handful of Productive Paradigms.

The Dutch city Helmond is transforming its central shopping area, per a master plan by Professor Joan Busquests. Falling within that zone is the city's new library designed by BOLLES+WILSON. Its location is directly adjacent to Piet Blom's 1970's Tree Houses and Theatre, an earlier version of the Cubic Houses in Rotterdam. The library's design responds to the pedestrian shopping context in which it is situated by giving over most of its ground floor to retail.

The library's functions at grade include the children's library, a cafe with outdoor seating next to the Theatre Court, and of course the entrances. This last piece, the main entry, is announced by a two-story cantilevered extension of the facade mounted with the word BIBLIOTHEEK, a theme also used at the northeast corner. These projections are articulated as if the brick exterior is a pliable skin that can be pinched and pulled; even the windows above the entrance follow the angled projection.

The "rough dark brown and unusually horizontal bricks," in the architects' words, give the library its primary means of expression, but how the winows interact with this solid envelope is also important. Like other BOLLES+WILSON projects, the library's exterior is an effect of the interior spaces and their organization. According to the architects, "the internal spaces of the library are developed as an unfolding spatial sequence," from the entrance via a grand stair to the "first floor exhibition deck" and "central media Hot Spot...a Chinese-red sandwich."

Most of the stacks are on the upper floor, as are the offices; the latter lends the exterior its small openings marching from sign to sign (top photo). The top floor brings in generous amounts of daylighting with a long "tree-house-facing" window and a shared light well over the media hot spot.

The New City Library extends Julia Bolles-wilson and Peter Wilson's catalog of the building type, which includes their marvelous 1993 Münster City Library and the soon-to-be-landmark BEIC library in Milan.


Spuimarkt in The Hague, Netherlands by BOLLES+WILSON, 2008.

Located on a prominent site in the center of The Hague in The Netherlands, the Spuimarkt combines cinemas, a supermarket and other retail into a large block whose openings, massing, and materiality belies its size. Designed by Münster, Germany-based BOLLES+WILSON with local architect Bureau Bouwkunde for ING Vastgoed, the shopping center elevates itself above similar projects in other cities by carefully addressing the urban context.

The architects describe the Spuimarkt as a "permeable block," acknowledging the transient movement of visitors within the building's various spaces, what they further call the "tides and eddies of shoppers." They turn this flow of people into a spectacle via a Piranesian space of escalators at the main entrance on the north, on Grote Marktstraat. This space is carved from the building mass, brightly illuminated at night to attract tourists and residents alike into the cinemas on the upper floors. It's refreshing to see that selective glazing provides a connection to the city for those inside Spuimarkt, unlike many malls that opt for hermetically sealed environments.

By locating the cinemas on the upper floors -- a decision that makes sense structurally, due to the longer spans of these spaces -- the architects create a stepped profile that rises in the center of the block. The architects further describe this roof silhouette "like a topographic landform...that gives measure and scale to the [city's] skyline." The overall effect is one where no view or side of the building resembles another, as if the whole building cannot be taken in at a single glance because its layered massing changes as one moves about the surrounding streets.

The massing effectively reduces the overall scale of the shopping center, helping it recede into its urban context, a condition aided by the materials used on the exteriors. Brick is the primary material, rendered in alternating horizontal and vertical stacking, a subtle checkerboard pattern (image at left) with the added complexity of a faint banding. Stone provides a fitting contrast to the brick at the building's base. Generous glazing and colorful banding wrapping the theaters combine with the masonry to create a well-composed project that is more than just the sum of its parts.