Monday, January 10, 2011

Hermit's House

Hermit's House in Deventer, Netherlands by The Cloud Collective, 2010

Like many young firms today, The Cloud Collective eschews the traditional model and appearance of the sole architect-genius presiding over a design, an impression born of the media more than the reality of design and construction. They call themselves "a social, open and creative party ... a rich variety of people who are practicing their creative skills and talents in different places in Europe." Hermit's House, on the floodplains of the Ijssel River is attributed to Mark van der Net (Groningen, Netherlands) and Daniƫl Venneman (Madrid, Spain).

Hermit's House is a garden retreat, an open design that allows it to be a lounge, guest room, exhibition space, studio, teahouse, what have you. At only 9sm (95 sf) it is basically the size of a bedroom, but its shape is like a crumpled shoebox. In plan it is formed by two overlapping squares turned 45 degrees to the entrance door. A half of another square extends itself on the exterior to become a small porch embraced by projecting walls and walls and roof.
I wish that man will try to build houses for themselves and future generations, not much bigger than his body, which can catch all his imagination and thoughts, that he devotes his genius to a work of adaptation, not exaggeration - or at least that he acknowledges the limits of the body that supports him. -Francis Ponge in "Notes pour un Coquillage," 1932
The above quote is the architects' motto, understandable for such a small project located in the client's garden. A standard shed may also have been lacking in exaggeration, but it surely wouldn't have accommodated the user's imagination and thoughts. A simple rectangular space may seem to maximize the square footage of a small footprint, but the demarcation of two spaces sets up opportunities for different uses and relationships. This pinch is reminiscent of a small cabin in Belgium that opts to use walls to make a small space more intimate by making two spaces.

The project was built by the architects themselves with prefabricated panels, based on standard dimensions of materials. This is particularly evident on the exterior, its plywood sheets broken by narrow vertical windows. The architects hope to develop similar designs that utilize prefab construction towards the goal of autarkic building. At only 5,000 Euros, the out building is certainly affordable (less than $70/sf), so future designs are just about a guarantee, something I look forward to after seeing this small gem.