An elusive play of asymmetrical-angled concrete canopies along the peripheral volume of the Belgian house creates a refreshing impression of ‘introverted openness.’ Designed by the Graux and Baeyens Architecten, the House N-DP is set amongst a narrow-deep plot in Leuvense Vaart of Mechelen with a far-reaching view of the canal and the fields behind it. The triangular concrete storeys are positioned following its aesthetic necessity and responding to the surrounding factors such as proximity to the neighbours. The openings of the Belgian house are set to take in the view of its serene landscape beyond.
A Warm Welcome
The Belgian house stands on the ground with the support of concrete wedges that form part of the facade. These wedges help to create a continuous flow in design from the exterior to the interior. The wedge also makes a dwelling inside, building a carport and hiding the house’s entrance from outside view. However, thanks to its sizeable pivoting door and white-coloured concrete entrance step, every person who rings the doorbell feels welcomed into the house.
The concrete core of the house on the ground has stairs, a cloakroom, and a laundry. From here, it leads to the first floor that’s nestled around the central core.
A Thought-Provoking Contrast
Each floor of the Belgian house is set back from its previous base, and the facades of these floors are superimposed at a slightly different angle. This helps to create a sense of privacy and security for the residents. The elevated inward movement also counters the gigantic monolithic appearance of the nine-meter-high concrete building.
Complimenting this, the overall shape of the structure casts a minimal shadow towards its neighbours. The design openings also ensure that the house is less imposing to the boats that slowly pass by on the canal and the apertures on the other side create an exciting entry to the gardens and waters.
A Balance in Sheltering
All the furniture pieces in this Belgian house are custom built to suit the ambience of its interior mix of claddings. The balanced use of the warm texture of clay plaster on the wall, ceilings plastered with raw concrete, and the wooden finishes on the cupboards and glass frame enhance the user’s feelings. Architect’s alternate use of materials in outdoor and indoor spaces helps create a unique subsistence between a secure enclosure and openness. And a ray of sunshine through the glass openings in the morning hours will revitalize the resident’s minds.
The serene material palette of the house is worked down to the last detail. For example, a collective thought has been put into choosing the material for the railings as galvanized steel instead of modern glass. This takes away the imposing character of the concrete building and aligns the enclosures and breaches to a human scale.
The use of galvanized steel is also reflected in the external staircase and gate, specially designed for this Belgian house. Like the facade’s outlook, recesses are applied to the gate that makes the gate’s wheels visible and gives it a refined touch.
The Inner Sanctum
The roughly square-shaped plan of the Belgian house consists of two-glazed open corners and two introverted corners opposite one another on each floor. On the ground floor, the concrete core houses a cloakroom, a laundry room, and a central staircase that connects the three levels of the home. An external metal staircase is provided that directly leads to the first-floor terrace.
On reaching the first floor, a lounge with fireplace, a kitchen, and dining space are swaddled across the central core, and an additional seating area opens right onto the bright external terraces.
The residents can see a gradation of views on each level through the triangular windows and elevate the contrasting conditions. The kitchen catches the first rays of sun in the morning, and the living room with adjoining terrace farewells the last ray of sunshine. Each of the balconies is sheltered by a concrete envelope formed by its above floors. Now, Level two consists of four bedrooms that view the bright corners of the terrace, and the linen closets, bathrooms, and study are placed into the more introverted area. The harsh sun rays will hit the bedroom during the time it’s least occupied. Also, the concrete envelope will help in regulating the inside temperature and make the Belgian house more sustainable.
The Need for a Diverse Approach
The design approach for the Belgian house is somewhat unique. The Architects opted to commence work and research from the urban scale and work towards the interior and its details. The design logic they followed is synergetic, i.e., the different functions of the house reinforced and embraced each other. They generated relationships with the environment and were sometimes blocked from it. The reconciliation of overlapping functions, strict urban development regulation, integration of historical value, budget, and ideologies resulted in an atypical plan and structure that created its own architectural language.
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ArchDaily. (n.d.). Gallery of House N-DP / GRAUX & BAEYENS Architecten – 28. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/958036/house-n-dp-graux-and-baeyens-architecten/60414899f91c81a26d00011a-house-n-dp-graux-and-baeyens-architecten-sections [Accessed 2 Sep. 2021].
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