The house is built on one of the 350 plots designated for construction by private owners in the Homerus quarter of Almere near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Private building is, in the Netherlands with its high population density, not extremely common as land is scarce.
These “Herenhuis” plots, part of the OMA urban plan, had strict envelop requirements: minimal and maximal heights depending on the position: at the front (min/max 7-14m), middle (4m) or rear (4-7m). The client chose to concentrate his volume in the front part of the plot. Another urban planning requirement was that the ceilings at ground level should be higher than usual (have a clearance of 3.5m) so that that the ground floor space is both suitable for residential and work functions.
The client’s assignment was: downstairs an artist’ studio and exhibition space and on the top floors the living space. The principal, Rob Veening, had lived in Canada for many years, and expressed the clear wish that the house should not be minimally seized and narrow (like many Dutch residences) but spacious, open and giving one a sense freedom of movement; a dream assignment for space loving designers, with the added challenge of a very limited budget.
The sense of space is created by making a continuous connection between all rooms of the house. The artist's studio downstairs is connected to the living room on the first floor by one of the atriums and the ground floor thereby also gets more light deep into the studio space through this extra 1st floor window.
In the middle of the building volume a central atrium was carved out, with at the top a skylight, visually connecting the entire upper floors to the living space and creates a good light quality and feeling of freedom. Additional advantage is that the study / TV room, top level street side, did not then need windows nor received them to save costs. Due to the split-level in the front part of the living room the ceiling height reaches 4.5 m giving it a real mansion (“herenhuis”) quality. The dimensions of the doors are 3.5 m width x 2.7 m height and this also contributes to this sense of openness. But due to all those large measurements the scale of the building is quite difficult to read and can only be measured by comparing it with the traditional sizes of the neighbouring house.
To fit all this space in to the budget, costs had to be saved and a number of measures, some of which innovative, were taken that influenced both the process and the final result.
The greatest advantage was that the client had built his own house before in Canada and understood very well the uncertainties connected to any building process and was not afraid of meeting setbacks. Also he intended to do most of the interior work himself so there was certain elasticity in what would be his part and what part of the contractor would do. The result was that contractor made the house (hull) wind and waterproof after which the client finished the rest (stairs, insulation, interior finishes, interior walls, doors, equipment and installation of the external cladding)
Construction & Materials
Saving money can be done by optimizing the process or reducing on the design itself, or both. So starting with the design costs, reducing volume by making the program more compact was not accepted by the client. Next best, one of the most expensive items in a building budget, is the reduction of the price of the façade as this can normally be done without affecting functionally. But this always has serious consequence for the architectural image. From there came the radical proposal.
The municipality of Almere has C2C in high esteem and even drafted its own "Almere Principles"! This course offered a chance to see how much they really meant it and how much liberty they were willing to give private clients. From this, cc studio developed the idea to try to produce the facade from free waste product, using their contacts with the tent industry. The extremely durable, non-combustible, residual material comes from rolls of PTFE (Teflon) coated fibreglass fabric, used in the industrial manufacture of conveyors belts for the food industry. This special material was completely sponsored by Verseidag-Indutex from Krefeld, Germany. The 5
m long rolls, 250 kg, about 1200m2 in total, were cut and patterned by the client and cc-studio and tacked as overlapping shingles on a backing of osb panels. In the sidewall up to a height of 7 meters no pattern is applied due to possible future building that must, by regulation, build up to a minimum height of 7 meters so any pattern there would be lost.
We are very happy with the result as the flexible material moves with wind and with a storm it really becomes alive and kicking. As the house is well insulated the sound one hears of this inside is very limited and blends in with the sound of the storm itself.
(Architects rarely build themselves. But the cc-studio office is situated in a studio with a number of other small design firms, collected under http://www.b29studios.nl. Many of them studied at the prestigious Design Academy in Eindhoven, were it is quite normal to make your design yourself. This definitely inspired us to give it a try; a good case of crossing-boarders between the design world and the far more traditional world of architecture.)
Smaller savings came by integrating construction and omitting the traditional use of steel portals for stability, as cc-studio did also the engineering themselves. The entire stability comes from stapled Fermacell (fibreboard) plates in the front, rear and side facades.
Also on process level savings were made. As the contractor had both their own timber structure workshop and also produce their own windows and door frames this eliminates contractors traditional 10% surcharge cost over these items. It also gave a chance to make very large window frames and doors (2.7m high) which could be realized without any discussions.
Finally also on financing money was saved. As the house has a lower energy requirement than demanded by law and also features a number of other sustainability features it was eligible for a lower interest rate for sustainable building.
It was a remarkable and close collaboration between client and designers, one that made the best use of the, sometimes somewhat unconventional, opportunities.