Monday, November 12, 2012

Villa Nieuw Oosteinde

Villa Nieuw Oosteinde in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, by Engel Architecten, 2012

Nieuw Oosteinde (New East End) is a new neighborhood in Aalsmeer, a town fairly close to Amsterdam. A quick glance at the website for the area reveals a mix of primarily traditional dwellings, where gables predominate regardless of type (single-family, semi-detached, rowhouse). Yet within this new/traditional neighborhood Engel Architecten has inserted a perfect cube of concrete, wood, and glass.

From certain angles, such as the photo at right, the house looks like it is only a cube, when in actuality it is made up of that volume and a small workshop on the side; both are linked by a glass corridor. Even as the architects describe the house as a cube, its materiality forces a reading of something else, something striated with a wood base, a tall upper story in concrete, and a band of glass in between. The roughly 1:3 ratio of wood/glass (if we combine them for simplicity's sake) to concrete comes about from the latter serving as guardrails for a roof terrace.

Inside, the house's square plan (10 meters per side) is pretty straightforward, split into four smaller squares. On the ground floor these relate to entrance, living, dining, and kitchen, even as the last three are one continuous L-shaped space. Powder room, storage, and stairs share the entry square, the last heading up to three square bedrooms and the stair's square shared by a full bathroom. Large windows are located on one side of each bedroom and the bathroom, pinwheeling about the plan such that each exterior expanse of precast concrete panels are exactly the same.

Besides the workshop, the only other "violation" of the cube is the rooftop projection clad in wood. Housing the stair and some storage, this volume naturally allows access to the roof terrace, whose definition through the concrete panels leads one's eyes to the sky and treetops. Photographed with fake grass and some outdoor furniture, this space is reminiscent of a Le Corbusier rooftop (you know, that one). Beyond this superficial comparison, the roof terrace nicely "takes back" the ground that it sits upon—one of Corbu's Five Points—giving the residents something that the neighboring gabled houses can't have.

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