Oosterwold Co-living

Bureau SLA and ZakenMaker designed 9 homes for a group of pioneers wishing to turn a potato field into a community.

In the rural area of Oosterwold Almere, Frode Bolhuis dreamed of an alternative way of living and working. He wanted to make a one-hectare potato field his home and asked architects Peter van Assche and Mathijs Cremers at bureau SLA and ZakenMaker respectively to design his dream house. The only problem was the very limited budget. The architects came up with two preconditions to make the project possible: they suggested finding friends to join the project, since it is a lot cheaper to build several houses at the same time than just one. Luckily, Frode was able to find eight friends who shared his dream. The second precondition was that only the exterior would be designed, leaving the families complete freedom to decide on the interior.

The end result is a convincing piece of architecture. The 100-meter-long building makes a statement in the landscape, and at the same time accommodates nine completely different homes. All the families were allocated 160 square metres to be divided into living space. This allowed them to meet their own needs, by incorporating an artist’s studio, for example, or a large living room. The architects decided to raise the long building from the ground so that it seems to float above the land. This design decision also had another advantage. It allowed the residents to choose where the sewage system and water pipes would be located.

To achieve high-end insulation within the budget, the architects chose to get the most out of common building materials. Floor, roof and adjoining walls were built as hollow wooden cassettes, which are blown in with insulating cellulose was pumped on completion. The result is an exceptionally well insulated basis.

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The facade is designed as a game to give maximum freedom of choice within an efficient building system. Each family received a plan for seven windows and doors, which can be placed in the facade. The space between the frames is vitrified with solid parts of glass without a frame. This creates an uncluttered but diverse facade.

Oosterwold Co-living Complex demonstrates that it’s possible to achieve a convincing design within a tight budget and which, most importantly, manages to meet the expectations of nine different clients at the same time.

The position of the building on the side of the plot leaves maximum space for the community garden. And the long, communal porch makes it easy to make contact with the neighbours.

In the end, what had first seemed like a problem, the tight budget, became a key feature of the project. Completing the interiors of the homes has strengthened the bond within the community. After all the hard work, in the summer after completion, in the lee of the surrounding forest edge, one meter above ground level, the residents look out over their shared landscape and vegetable garden.

Oosterwold Co-living Complex is the winner of the Frame Awards 2019, in the category Co-living Complex of the Year, and was rewarded with an honourable mention from the Architecture Prize Almere. This housing project was published in the Dutch Architecture Yearbook 2016/2017.

About bureau SLA

Peter van Assche founded bureau SLA in 2002. This Amsterdam-based architect studio gives shape to a rapidly changing society by designing, researching, inventing and building. bureau SLA offers tangible solutions for how we want to live, work and relax, now and in the future by designing, for example, concepts for new neighbourhoods where the elderly live side by side with young people. Or by building the Nature and Environment Learning Center in Amsterdam, a school building that in itself is a teacher and in which sustainability can be easily experienced and understood by children.

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Bureau SLA works out circular strategies, not only on paper but also in their buildings. By being innovative in both theory and in practice, they demonstrate that a sustainable transition can be achieved. The architects at bureau SLA apply this trial-and-error way of working to discovering the full potential of material use, energy, waste flows, smart living and working, and development processes.

About Zakenmaker

Architect Mathijs Cremers is ZakenMaker. Having spent six years gaining experience as a professional architect, he set up his own business ZakenMaker. Here, he finds the freedom and flexibility needed to combine knowledge of designing with knowledge of manufacturing: a case of ‘know why meets know-how’. ZakenMaker designs, realises and experiments, commissioned by himself or others.

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