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.
Hoflaan House in Rotterdam, The Netherlands by Maccreanor Lavington
October 12th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Maccreanor Lavington
Hoflaan House replaces a two storey, post-war dwelling that had reached the end of its life due to the poor quality of materials available after the war. The street is characterised by deep front and rear gardens, large mature trees and by numerous individual houses of different widths and heights in different materials, built at different times in a wide variety of architectural styles.
The site is in a conservation area with relatively few new build constructions and as such, a design review formed part of the application process. The design review panel had previously rejected another new build house in the street for aping historical styles but were fully supportive of our approach to respond to the context with a modern architecture that fitted its place.
The street has an ambivalent character: partly urban, partly suburban and at times seemingly rural. White rendered houses are a characteristic part of the streetscape and the new house uses render as its principle external building material. The north end of the street had proportionally fewer white villas than the south and the new building rectifies that balance.
The front facade is of a typical urban townhouse with historically proportioned windows and ceiling heights in a formal elevation. Behind this facade is a surprising and spatially complicated interior of split levels and specific spaces revealed as you ascend the staircase .
As a family home it was important to consider that Hoflaan House would be used by grandparents, parents, young kids and teenagers. We also hope to grow old in the house and therefore thought the plan should be adaptable with a number of equal sized rooms that are not overly prescribed but could change with time.
Circulation space and staircases are generous and over-dimensioned. Stairs are easy going, notably so for Dutch standards, and each space has adequate storage areas adjacent or nearby. All rooms and circulation spaces are well lit. Bathrooms are on different levels and toilets are on, or capable of being on, all levels. Rooms and spaces are considered as volumes and not just as area, so ceiling heights are over-dimensioned which further encourages other use.
In the Netherlands, bicycles are a fundamental part of everyday life. We have six bicycles for a family of four, which is below the Dutch norm. Bicycles are provided for at the front of the house for daily use and in secure stores at the rear during periods away. Generous and wide gates and paths are as much for the accommodation of bicycles as for the enjoyment of the gardens.
The house is designed to Passivhaus standards. Attention was given to the choice of building system, services and materials to minimise the CO2 footprint. The house is CO2 neutral in construction and low energy in use. To achieve this, a prefabricated timber frame structure with a wood-based insulation was chosen. Walls and ceilings are lined with 36mm reinforced gypsum and floors at ground level, first floor study and wet rooms are finished in 25mm stone, which together gives a thermal mass similar to a historical brick house.
In practice it achieves better performance than the set design targets for primary energy use and represents a questioning and learning process that goes against the tendency to waste money in the name of sustainability in order to be seen to be green, rather than looking at the more obvious strategies.
It is an exemplar for the construction industry: an innovative new design and a comfortable family home that bridges the gap between the expectations of the architect and everyone on the street.
Hoflaan House was awarded an RIBA National Award in 2013.
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