A Row of Houses

Row houses are still the most prevalent residential form in the Netherlands, and architects devote much effort to their development.

In doing so, however, they are confronted with a paradox. On the one hand, new constructions codes, as well as very scarce funding, have reduced practicable housing types to an absolute minimum, while on the other, clients are searching for something unusual to distinguish themselves from their neighbors. This is why we often find houses built alongside one another that accommodate virtually identical layouts despite having strikingly contrasting façades. The architect’s role, then, is restricted to the design of a 30cm thick façade, while a building’s actual structure is virtually predetermined.

This project conceptualizes this situation while simultaneously seeking to evade it. The client wanted a typology with an axis dimension of 6m and distinctly separate residential and service zones. As early as the early 20th century, this popular apartment type was already found frequently. The houses realized here attempt a contemporary interpretation. The application of a fully closed façade in the service zone and an entrance door especially developed for the project, combined with full glazing in the residential zone generate a lucid form that conforms to the logic of the plan. The introduction of an empty volume set behind the facades creates a double-height residential space designed to stimulate social interaction within the building while allows light to penetrate into the deep interior. The result is a residential quality through which the surrounding exterior extends optically into the interior. This project could be interpreted as a commentary on the hidden potentials of traditional prototypes which simultaneously points up its limitations.

During the project’s planning, the detail work on the entrance door revealed itself to be especially difficult. In Dutch residential building, only standard building products with both a product certificate and an attestation of security against break-ins may be utilized. Since acquisition of certificates is extremely cost and time intensive, this system in principle inhibits the development of project-specific components. For this project, however, a door type was utilized that had been manufactured especially for this project. This approach proved feasible only because a standard door system could be adapted within the framework of an existing product certificate. A projecting frame with glass panel was attached to an aluminum door frame, making it possible to attach the door flush and in a highly elegantly manner to the other façade systems.

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