A design puzzle solved with brick. The house is only accessible via a narrow pathway, rising like a castle in the rather cluttered surroundings, with the relief pattern on the façade and its limited openings helping to keep the viewer at a distance. In the interior, the ambience is welcoming with the completely open platforms on both levels and free circulation thanks to the dual staircases.

Project details

Project

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Architect

Atelier vens vanbelle – architects: Dries Vens and Maarten Vanbelle

Clients

Jas & Elisa

Facing brick used

Terca Etna

Floor area

236 m²

 

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

Private House in Veldegem, Belgium

A design puzzle

The bar was set pretty high in creative terms for Jas and Elisa’s construction project. Privacy was a prime concern. The plot being built on was located in an urban area, squeezed between existing houses and their annexes. The design puzzle was not made any easier by the fact that the couple was dreaming of having four children. And the third crucial item was the tight budget.

Window openings grant views and maintain privacy

The architects Dries Vens and Maarten Vanbelle produced a drawing of a rectangular volume that was highly expressive and could be filled in surprising ways. The layout of the façades was derived from the desire for privacy, with carefully embedded window openings on the ground floor, with free lines of sight only where a large glass area is recessed into the south-west side of the house. On the upper floor, small windows mean that it is not possible to see in. From inside, these ‘peepholes’ act as frames for the views to the chaotic surroundings. Daylight is provided by the roof construction, consisting of two metal girders upon which A-frames have been welded, which were finished with industrial sandwich panelling. The open sides of the triangles, each facing a different point of the compass, have been glazed so that the incident sunlight is continually changing.

Facing bricks create an expressive façade texture

The façade is finished with Terca Etna facing bricks laid in a relief pattern that adds powerful  expressiveness. For the relief pattern on the external walls, the architects consistently adhered to the dimensions of the Etna facing brick. They created an Excel file stating which bricks in which row had to be in-plane and which had to protrude. The contractor then laid the bricks according to the instructions, and the pattern appeared accordingly.
The intention was that the flat areas would coat with a green patina in the course of time. The combination of protruding bricks and green areas is inspired by the pattern of Japanese wallpaper. To complete the range of colours, the designers had the frames of the window openings made of Corten steel and the external joinery of afzelia. 

Flexible interior layout

The internal layout of the house aims for maximum flexibility. To create a playful interaction between the areas, the entrance is located below ground level, so that a part of the house has three storeys. The rest consists of two open levels that are connected by two staircases, allowing continuous mobility without a defined end point. Downstairs, there is the kitchen and a seating area. Depending on the requirements, the upper level can accommodate movable sleeping areas, an office section, a playroom, storage space or whatever is needed. That gives Jas and Elisa the freedom to change the layout and the finish in phases, in line with their budgetary options and the patter of tiny feet.

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