Despite perching 15 floors up high there is solid ground in the newly inaugurated penthouse belonging to architect Bruno Spaas. With the entire 350 square meter flooring made from chunks of local light brown natural stone, the earth has been raised into the sky, a conscious touch by the architect who initially had planned to fill up the space with actual earth, rammed and dried like in ancient medieval houses.
Bruno Spaas will go a long way to implement the materials he finds suitable for a project, and for this one, he makes the most of it, being both the owner and the architect. The penthouse apartment on Westkaai in Antwerp’s northern harbour area was like a blank canvas when Spaas decided to buy it in 2018. Situated on the top floor in a tower building conceived by Swiss architects Diener & Diener, Spaas immediately saw its potential and firstly placed the investment to design an extravagant space where he could play freely with unconventional ideas and elements of surprise.
The first, and probably greatest, astonishment is placed at the entrance of the apartment. Upon opening the front door, one is met with an immediate panoramic view over the city of Antwerp, due to a sizable floor-to-ceiling window right opposite the door. Stepping inside the entrance only intensifies the sensory experience with an addition of bafflement: except for the stone floor, the 25 square meter foyer is like a mirror box reflecting the city view endlessly. Distortion-free tempered mirror and high-glossy painted surfaces are recurrent in the apartment which play with the feeling of space, reflection, and perspective, on cupboards, sliding doors, room dividers - even on inside of the kitchen extractor hood.
Besides a few carrying internal walls, the floor planning and all the interior elements have been designed and made to measure by Bruno Spaas Architectuur. Already at the beginning of the conceptualisation phase, Spaas visualised a home with flexibility and openness and therefore created a free circulation throughout the whole space with no dead ends, just doors to divide and add privacy when needed. Together with the storage solutions and functional spaces like the pantry and utility room, the plan design and layout reveal a thorough understanding of flow and everyday use.
Verticality has been used as an overall aesthetic theme in the detailing and features of the built-in and freestanding furniture. The bench in the foyer and the kitchen islands along with sanitary elements like sinks and the bathtub in the master bathroom are customised pieces carrying the same visual expression, all built by strips of locally produced Belgian terrazzo. Their features are repeated in the painted woodwork, creating a common language, and underlining the verticality of the tower. The light brown stone on the floor seems to set the colour tone for the rest of the apartment, yet only to give room for even more wonder when opening drawers and cupboards where shades of blues and greens pop out and surprise once again.
‘WKA Penthouse’ has taken time to design, conceive and build, and the project demonstrates the level of meticulousness and detail that Bruno Spaas Architectuur can achieve and realise in close collaboration with a small group of constructors and local craftsmen.