Fact: Belgium was the first country, in continental Europe, in which the industrial revolution took place. As a result, Belgium is filled with working class houses! These small houses have been transformed (most of them in a doubtable way) through the decades by their respectable owners. Today, young owners opt to rebuild these houses in a more convenient and green way while keeping the spirit of the neighbourhood intact. The I Love Belgium team selected three projects to visualise this phenomenon.
We start with a project of HASA architecten in Antwerp. This former working class house was a real challenge for the architects. As with most of these houses, the narrow yet long layout brings several problems with it. The biggest of them being the incidence of light on the ground floor. HASA resolved this by placing skylights on the flat roof of the ground floor. And instead of the traditional entrance staircase placement, the architects moved the stair towards the middle of the house, resulting in a spacious feeling.
Through the use of classical Belgian facade elements such as brickwork and wooden windows, the house perfectly fits in. Something perfectly captured by architecture photographer Bart Gosselin.
We move on with a project that may look more grand, yet the building was constructed on just 37 square meters. That's the reason why the architects of puls architecten, searched space and light in a vertical way. The four floors and roof terrace (with panoramic view) are connected by a minimalist spiral staircase, keeping the floors luminous and spacious. Large windows and several small open spaces who connect separate floors, allow the light to stream into the house. From the outside, a tile pattern refers to the Belle Epoque ornaments of the surrounding houses.
Both of these houses where commissioned by AG VESPA, this city company invests in real property. As they stand for quality and ecology, the city of Antwerp is enriched with sustainable urban development, while young people get the change to buy an architectural gem for a reasonable price.
I LOVE BELGIUM
We end this series with a private project done by MVC Architecten in Sint-Niklaas. In this example, the typology of the existing workers dwelling has been copied in a new construction. In this way the house fits in it`s surroundings.
On the other hand, this typology is being pushed to the limit. Seen from the front elevation, the ground level is being externalized in a simple, yet monolithic plinth, with only the dimensions of the entrance door referring to the neighbours. Once above this level a pattern, consisting of clay pan cladding weaves the elevation and the roof to one whole. De elevation pattern refers to the rich history of Sint-Niklaas as an industrial city, with an great amount of expertise in cotton weaving. And while the front elevation is adorned with a showy pattern of clay tiles, the back elevation is wrapped in dark slates.