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Situated in a fairly wooded area in The Netherlands, the transparent glass and concrete Villa 1 by Powerhouse | The Hardt
Situated in a fairly wooded area in The Netherlands, the transparent glass and concrete Villa 1 by Powerhouse. The home consists of two wings which are anchored by a central garage. Because of its rural location, the architects needed to meet above ground volume codes. Their plan was to invert the traditional house plan by putting the bedrooms underground while the living area remains on top. The interior is very open thanks to full walls of glass windows and central hubs, which condense all storage and service into one unit. The forest, like most of the Dutch landscape, is manmade. Mostly Douglas Pines were planted there in the 1950s for the production of straight stems that could then be used as beams. The trees became mature enough to be harvested in the 1970s, paradoxically just when it became immoral to cut trees. The landscape thus turned from industrial to being natural. Now the site falls under the local “building-in-nature” regulations, which include a number of restrictions, among which height limitations for the gutter lines and volumetric restrictions for what could be built above ground. Since the spatial needs of the house called for at least twice the volume allowed by the regulations, we designed it upside-down: all day functions above ground and all bedrooms below, but with ample daylight access.
Every room on the ground floor can enjoy open views onto the landscape thanks to the wide transparent facade contained within the frame. Each wing is spatially organized in a sort of centrifugal manner. All mass is concentrated in a central core: a piece of furniture that contains all services and structural elements and that simultaneously creates different rooms within the entirely glazed space. These large pieces of furniture allow for a free flowing distribution of functions without creating closed off rooms. It is thus possible to enjoy a pleasant stroll longer than 150 m through a variety of rooms immersed in the landscape. Counteracting the extreme openness of the ground floor, the basement level shelters the most intimate rooms of the house and takes on opposite spatial qualities, emphasized by the brutal and protective feeling of mass. Here, the scarcity of daylight is complemented by a richness in spatial effects. The rooms are carved out in the mass, creating vaulted ceilings and thick walls as a paradoxical result of the lightness of the vertical structure above ground. In the basement, the heavy architecture retrieves the primordial qualities of Roman architecture.
The three furniture pieces on the ground floor are distinctively different in their design, materials, feel and smell. We used wood to the North, slate to the East and concrete to the South. In the North wing an American nut-wood furniture piece ‘swallows’ a staircase, cupboards, a bed and a small bathroom. The curves of its outer shape create the entrance, a small and a large study and an acoustically sound piano-room.
The kitchen is the second piece of furniture. It is entirely made of Norwegian slate and incorporates all kitchen appliances and storage, a toilet and a bar. It is as solid as a rock, yet gentle in its use – a sort of primordial sophistication. The third furniture piece consists of two concrete walls that incorporate a fireplace, storage, and video projector. This element opens up to create a patio bordered by a living room, garden room and atelier. The glass facade is suspended between window frames hidden in the ceiling and floor. There is no vertical structure, only silicone joints to hold the glass. The only large opening is a huge green marble sliding wall (a sort of mobilized Mies wall) which opens the intimacy of the living room onto the terrace. Although made of marble, the sliding wall is very light as it is mounted on honeycomb aluminum plates (a Chinese invention called stone-veneer now produced in Texas, USA, with predominantly Middle East stones). The marble sliding wall wraps around a cross-shaped column clad with a black rubber skin: this is what we called the “Miessian Gimp”.
Structurally the house is a stack of different industrial building techniques. The basement is cast in concrete. The roof, with extreme cantilevers, is a complex steel structure designed by the audacious structural engineer Gilbert van der Lee. The bookshelf in the North wing is made entirely of solid steel plates and functions as a structural Vierendeel frame stabilizing the structure of the roof. As a result of its Y shape and architectural dichotomy, the villa provides a wide array of extreme spatial qualities, going from narrow, dark, vaulted corridors to wide-open, transparent garden rooms. The result is a landscape of different spatial perceptions that goes beyond the mere pragmatic diagram of functionality. This house is the result of an involuntary yet conscious choice to radically change a way of living. It is a house for the new life of a man and his new partner. A house that can provide him with a new place to live in, after losing his beloved one with whom he had lived thirty years in an old farmhouse bought in the seventies and which they had remodeled 8 times to fit their changing needs. This house had to be something radically new for him. It had to offer a new balance to a disturbed life. It had to provide a new anchor point. It is a house designed for a family to be re-rooted.
Aesthetically and Geographically Related Projects:
- House in Oeiras (2015) by Pedro Domingos Arquitectos
- Cave House in Loess Plateau (2016) by hyperSity Architects
- Casa Crotta (2015) by Massimo Galeotti Architetto
- Church Hill Barn Church Hill Barn (2016) by David Nossiter Architects
- House in La Rufina (2013) by Santiago Carlos Viale + Daniella Beviglia