Partners in charge: Hiroki Matsuura, Rene Sangers
Team: Edoardo Mancini, Hernando Arrázola, Natalia Kniazkova
Collaborators: Landscape design: MADMA urbanism+landscape
Photography: Tim Van de Velde – Brussel>>
An urban oasis in the heart of the city
A former sports hall built in the 1940s that was never intended to be renovated was given a new lease of life by the Rotterdam-based design firm MASA Architects converting it into an elegant and fascinating home with an indoor pool. Aptly named the Villa West, this project combines the pristine raw beauty of the original framed structure with its exposed beams and columns, the high ceilings with a modern touch of simplicity and truthfulness.
The old abandoned sports hall was constructed during the second world war and had later been used as a radio station and a daycare center. Where no developer could imagine making something useful out of the abandoned structure, it was a tale of “love at first sight” for the architects and the clients who saw the immense potential in the 600 square meter building.
The client who is also an entrepreneur had worked with studio MASA before and deeply valued the sentiment of being able to make something new out of something old. The original spaces, airy and full of light inspired Hiroki Matsuura and Rene Sangers to preserve and make the most of them in combination with a flexible layout.
The Design Vocabulary
Re-envisioning the structure began with dismantling the original arrangement, but the moment of clarity struck when the walls and ceiling were stripped of the finishes the building had acquired over the last few years, bringing out the raw beauty of the original material palette, which along with the vast space filled with light presented a great point of departure. The architects and the client were both impressed and moved by the desire to highlight the original ethos of the space.
Working in alignment with the purist spatial arrangement of the original building to create a cozy living environment in the hard commercial shell to adapt the building for a residential purpose became their main source of inspiration. By drawing on the resources already in place, the architects ensured sustainability by avoiding any unnecessary waste.
The architects understood the beauty of these large bays of concrete and decided to uplift the sense of wonder by creating more intimate spaces within an open floor plan. By retaining the large spans of the original arrangement of structural elements used to contain the sports hall helped visually increase the volume and define the character of the interior space. But maintaining the balance of subdividing the space into separate rooms while preserving its “grandeur” was a tricky task.
Another crucial aspect of the design process was blurring the lines between inside and outside. This was catered to by surrounding the green space with large windows right to the floor to help visually connect the inner spaces with the outdoor deck and when reflected in the polished semi-gloss concrete floor add a sense of lightness and openness. The large indoor plants smartly placed under skylights located at the center give the perception of a continuous garden where nature steps in to enrich the fluidity of space.
Key Elements of the Villa
The single-story house consists of a kitchen and dining room, two bedrooms, office, laundry, guest room, gym and spa, swimming pool, and a wooden deck. Custom-made pieces of furniture were designed to divide the living spaces rather than using standard partition walls.
What makes the spaces look seamless is that none of the furniture units touch the high ceilings, instead, they are fitted with mirrored surfaces on the top to reflect the original ceilings, creating an optical effect of an “endless ceiling” while sufficiently isolating the rooms and visually expanding the space.
The made to measure furniture pieces were designed using natural elements, by interestingly using each material only once to create a variety of interconnected sculptural spaces, each with its own unique character. For instance, the polished quartzite cooking island is distinctly different, visually aligned with the bamboo lacquered built-in cupboards.
An inviting view opens up from the swimming pool “box” framed by a black contour of the glass wall leading to the heart of the house, the kitchen and living room placed along the same axis. The outdoor deck continues at the indoor floor level, but the row of bamboos visually separates the house from the neighboring properties making it an ideal oasis in the city hustle.
While the “naked” unplastered brick walls add a touch of warmth and texture to the interior of the house, to ensure ideal insulation, the building was wrapped all over in a new metallic skin, protecting the integrity of the structure and subtly concealing one of the most spacious homes in all of Rotterdam.
Contributions to Achieve Sustainability
In a conscious effort of contributing to environmental sustainability, 160 square meters of Solar panels on the roof help generate electricity along with generating geothermal energy coming from twelve probes sunken to a depth of 80m.
Modest on the outside, yet gleaming with understated luxury inside, the Villa West is an airy home with a striking but comforting series of tactile contrasts. Converting the once deemed “unfit” space for any activity into a liveable, cozy and comforting environment was a special challenge and made this project a unique experience.