15.9.2009

A Row of Houses in Roosendaal, The Netherlands

"La casa para el siglo 21" y la realidad de la producción de viviendas. En 2001 Atelier Kempe Thill ganó el concurso de "La casa del siglo 21". La competencia fue organizada por la cooperativa de vivienda ARWON con la intención de encontrar soluciones para una nueva sociedad que presenta fuertes cambios demográficos. El proyecto propone casas adosadas muy flexibles de un piso de altura. Las casas tienen una estructura de acero y grandes ventanales de piso a techo. Como concepto urbano, forman un gran bloque que se adjuntó a unas viviendas existentes de los años ‘60 para mejorar sus cualidades espaciales. Las nuevas plazas de estacionamiento requeridas se ubicaron en el techo de las nuevas viviendas.

«The house for the 21th century» and the reality of the housing production
In 2001 Atelier Kempe Thill won the competition for «The house of the 21th century». The competition was organized by the housing cooperation ARWON with the intention to find new housing solutions for a society with strong demographic changes. The project – inspired by the task of the competition – proposed very flexible one-storey high terraced houses. The houses had a steal structure and huge windows from floor till the ceiling. As an urban concept they formed a Super block that enclosed an already existing housing estate from the 1960ties to enhance the spatial qualities. The new necessary parking lots were realized on the roof of the new homes.
Soon after the competition the office got a housing commission in a different part of the city. The task was the realization of small economic terraced houses. The housing cooperation and the building company already defined the building system with sand-lime brick in advance. The urban plan defined the size of the plots, the typical Dutch «Doorzonwoning» as typology, brick as façade material and the form of a pitched roof. Further it was also obvious that the future inhabitants would immediately extend their homes at the backside of the houses because of the small size of the houses. Under these circumstances -typical for the Dutch building production- experimental housing was actually immediately excluded.

«Doorzonwoning» for the 21th century
In the beginning of the design process Atelier Kempe Thill tried to propose different plot sizes. The ambition was to create smaller but deeper houses to create better economic conditions and to stimulate new interesting housing types. The housing cooperation liked the proposals but could not accept them because they did not full fill their expectations on the houses. The client wished a standard typology based on a six-meter-wide plot and a clear separation between living and service areas. The typology has been applied innumerable times since the start of the 20th century. Atelier Kempe Thill accepted this proposal. With this step it was clear that the design work would be mainly related to the façade. The floor plans would more or less be created by the conditions of the building laws.
The following project -that was also realized- tries to adapt this classical Dutch housing prototype on change living conditions and to create a new interpretation for the 21th century. To make the project possible the urban planner of Roosendaal changed the master plan and the beauty comity had to be convinced to give building permission for other façade materials than brick. The project radicalizes the given prototype. The project can be understood as a statement about the hidden potentials of traditional types and also as a demonstration of its limitations.
By using a totally closed façade for the service area with a specially developed entrance door and a full-glass façade for the living area a very articulated form is created that comes out of the inherent logic of the floor plan. By introduction of a void behind the façade a double high space is created that breaks open the traditional use of the house. This space is stimulating social contacts within the house and allows light to enter deep into the terraced house. A housing quality is formed where the outside space and the neighborhood are extending the confinement of the interior. The interior itself is becoming a part of the façade and is dominating its esthetics.
The façade is related to the quiet rhythm of the already existing chestnut trees and is forming a 100m long porous wall within the neighborhood. The façade is mediating between the spheres of the public, the common and the private. Like a curtain it is at the same time a filter for the private spheres towards the street but it is also exposing them. By using strong, an reflecting sun protecting glass plates the façade is becoming a mirror of the surrounding and is giving the interior -like sunglasses- the wished privacy.

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The door
The detailing of the specially made entrance door made the project quiet difficult. In Dutch housing it is just allowed to use building products with an industry certification and a rapport for break-in safety by the police.
Through this system it is almost impossible to develop project specific building components because it cost a lot of money and time to get the certifications.
In this project still a special made entrance door is used. This was possible because a standard door was transformed within the possibilities of the product guarantee. On an aluminum door an extra frame is fixed. On the frame a glass plate is glued. By doing so the door can smooth and elegant be integrated into the façade system without to exceed the maximum load of the door. Very critical was hereby the prolongation of the tested lock. The security experts of the Dutch police believed in the proposed solution but could not give a building permission with in there responsibility. Finally the detail got a building permission by the Dutch guarantee institute SKG.
The project is realized within the very limited budgets of social housing. The building price is around 830 Euro per square meter. Within these limits expensive glass plates where used, but also a very good aluminum sliding door system and luxurious door handles which are for instance also used in the Berlin Reichstag building. All these things demonstrate that social housing has not by definition to look cheap. All houses were sold -even under the complicated housing market conditions- within a few weeks.

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