Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Benthem House in Almere, The Netherlands
July 8th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Benthem Crouwel Architekten
The house is one of ten prize-winning designs in a competition, subscribed in 1982 in Almere. The brief for the competition was: design a house without bordering for building rules and -restrictions (that is: other than basic structural- and fire prevention-demands). The prize: free use of a building site for a period of 5 years (costs of building for competitors), leaving no traces on site after 5 years. This last restriction was starting-point for a quick design-exercise, starting at 5 am at the last day of entry, with a last minute entry at 4 pm.
If the house had to be removed after 5 years, normal financing would not be possible (unwilling banks, no mortgage), so only small investments, or investments with a high rest-value, re-usable components, would be justified. Leaving no traces on site excludes normal foundation, concrete piling to 15 m, and means: build light and prepare for settings.
So we tried to keep investments and weight of the house low, by designing a minimum-house, trying to reduce the number of building components, building materials and the weight of them to an absolute minimum, using as much as possible prefabricated and of-the-peg elements, that could be relocated.
Basic program for a minimum house for us was: living room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, using the length of a bed (2 m), for the design grid. Basic construction-concept could be: concrete slabs for foundation, space frame for floor-structure (light, strong), corrugated steel for floor and roof, sandwich panels for bed- and service rooms (closed), hardened glass for living room (open), steel wire-ropes for strengthening roof.
Winning the competition, we were to build the house, this concept appeared very usable. The house has been built by ourselves. It is still occupied by Jan Benthem and family and was enlarged a few years ago (the period of 5 years had been extended). It has proved to be a very nice house to live in.
At the same time the house was used as a laboratory for our office in which we use a number of building components, techniques, materials and finishes, which we use in our architectural practice. The colour of the house for instance, was a test for a series customs-complex, which our office has built at the Dutch borders.
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