Like the Phoenix
This project started with a fire. A centuries old family home in the Netherlands burned down in one night. When your house and possessions disappear, you are left without the things that make up your history and identity. You are left without a home.
Though the fire was an undeniably negative experience for the clients, they saw it as an opportunity to finally have all the things the old house didn’t. They would get to start from scratch, and make the house of their dreams. It was our job to give focus on opportunities and all that positive energy, and in doing so make a new container for life.
All that was left was the location and a few retaining walls. The clients decided against a replica of the original farmstead. Instead, they aspired for a contemporary, square-tube house where all the functions would be organized along a linear sequence. The tube developed into a knot, which engages better with the surrounding landscape by extending in every cardinal direction.
For the interior the goal was a diverse but clear layout. The knot responds to this by separating the house into three distinct wings that come together in the heart of the house: the double-height dining room. The wings offer privacy and seclusion, but company is never far away.
From the open living space the four main windows interact specifically with the landscape along each of the cardinal points. To the north a high window brings in the northern light. To the east a folded window embraces the enclosed garden. Towards the south a tube like window frames the view. To the west a huge window gives a panorama of the fields and the evening sun.
Local building regulations required the house to fit into the environment. By default that meant that the structure should be similar to the historical white plastered architecture of the neighboring houses. We opted instead to blend the house with the natural environment surrounding it. The dark, stained, vertical boards of larch make the building disappear against a backdrop of trees. The new house embraces the landscape and makes interaction with the surroundings its most important asset -both outdoors and inside.
A new house had to be constructed as quickly as possible. To speed up the construction process the house was designed in close cooperation with the main contractor. The wooden wall elements were CNC cut and prefabricated in Germany. From there they were transported to the Netherlands and erected in less than a week. All together the building process took eight months until the final moment when the clients could move in.
The short construction time meant costs were considerably lower than with traditional building methods. This financial gain was reinvested in ambitious energy efficiency as well as a higher level of finishing and materials.
The house is designed to conserve as much energy as possible and has high levels of insulation combined with a heat recovery system. Solar thermal collectors and a heat accumulating wood stove serve as additional energy sources. Only during the coldest winter days will the house need an external heat source.
This project was about breaking new ground, healing wounds, making a fresh start, collaboration, cooperation, listening, site-specific sensitivity, efficiency, cost effective design – in short, what we think architecture is about.