The north of Brussels has gained a unique single-family dwelling: neither too bourgeois nor too ordinary and with daring accents. A young couple of entrepreneurs took the plunge and entered into a dialogue with Bovenbouw Architectuur. A small, single-storey warehouse was demolished to make way for an unusual dwelling.
For the design of this residential passive house in Werfstraat, Bovenbouw Architectuur turned to the building styles of the surrounding urban fabric, from the rough character of the industrial premises to the finish of the town houses. The wide façade is an eye-catcher that unites simplicity and complexity. A striking feature is the pattern of terracotta-coloured, somewhat rough bricks of varying height that are stacked and laid in a stretcher bond – an idiom that envelops the entire building, including the stairwell and roof terrace.
The positioning of the bricks was determined by aesthetic and structural considerations. Like the edges of the loggia and the bay window, the sills are made of thin, glazed bricks, a sustainable material that refers to the stately homes in the neighbourhood. The only drawback: it comes at a price. ‘The building process was terribly time-consuming. Without the craftsmanship of the Eastern European workers, we would hardly be able to afford this kind of detailing’, says Dirk Somers, founder of Bovenbouw Architectuur.
The element that most distinguishes the façade is the central bay window. It gives the front of the house symmetry and consists of a large, blind surface, developed in a rhythmic line pattern of bricks. The windows are positioned in the gently sloping sides. This striking arrangement guarantees the privacy of the interior spaces located in the bay window, such as the bathroom.
The design and production process faced a few obstacles. One was the bankruptcy of the first contractor, which delayed the project. In addition, contrary to what the façade suggests, the house was planned for a narrow plot. ‘We wanted a good division between indoor and outdoor space. Struggles with urban-planning regulations made the road bumpier, but this did lead to creative solutions: the positioning of the spiral staircase at the back and the return of flowing, rounded walls throughout the house’, says Somers.
Bovenbouw Architectuur also designed the interior. The tight, horizontal lines of the façade are repeated at various places in the house. The tiling in the bathrooms and the oak block parquet on the landing, in the living room and in the kitchen refer clearly to the typology of the bricks in the façade. The architectural firm also chose materials inside, such as Breccia Alba marble for the worktop of the built-in cooking area and for the wall covering of the fireplace. They also developed complex colour schemes. The banister of the staircase in soft orange refers to the façade and combines with the complementary blue elsewhere in the house. ‘The house contains different moments that belong together’, says Somers.