Chasse Park Apartments

Chasse Park Apartments in Breda, Netherlands by Xaveer de Geyter Architects, 2001

Situated on a former military base in Breda, The Netherlands, the Chasse Park Apartments by Belgium's Xaveer de Geyter Architects are a series of towers that accentuate views and open space through their siting and unique elevations. The master plan for the area was created by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, known more for architect Rem Koolhaas' radical designs than their competent and innovative urban planning. Here the plan includes additional residences (700 total, 137 in the Chasse Park Apartments), a town hall, a concert hall and plenty of parking for all uses. The plan features buildings by well-known Dutch architects, including Erick van Egeraat and OMA, and landscape by West 8.

Geyter's five towers sit atop a parking base, surrounding a public, sunken garden. The tower-in-a-park plan, an idea long debated in architectural circles, takes on a higher level of interest than is typical of most of these plans, accomplished through the almost random location of each tower. The randomness is actually planned, according to view corridors through the larger site and the sun's movement. This siting, along with the unique elevations discussed later, help to overcome what are basically tall, rectangular boxes. By not placing the towers in orthogonal rows, for example, the relationships between buildings become as important as the buildings themselves.

Each tower has one facade of small, punched openings in white brick (see image on first page) with the three remaining facades a combination of glass and concrete panels. The grayish, concrete panels feature reliefs of slate pieces embedded at the time of making, giving the facades textural and random qualities that relate to the landscape and siting of the towers, respectively. These facades use a combination of floor-to-ceiling glazing of differing proportions between panels and curtain wall areas that express the bracing structure of each tower. The juxtaposition between the concrete and curtain wall areas is awkward but also a signal of the openness of the interiors.

Three of the five towers offer two spacious apartments per floor, while the remaining towers carry apartment sizes to extremes: one tower with four per floor and one tower with only one unit occupying each floor. The central core design guarantees sunlight in each space through the abundant glazing. Each apartment is also provided with a veranda, which can be either an outdoor or indoor space. These two design gestures indicate that ideas of incorporating views and sunlight into the project extend from the towers' siting inside to each apartment's design. It is this last statement that is the project's strength: the knowledge that architectural ideas need to extend from big to small - or vice-versa - to be effective.