In Rotterdam, an old family home is the focus of an interesting renovation by Ooze Architects. Keeping the old structure intact, the home got a new ‘skin’ and a new lease of life.
Rotterdam is no stranger to interesting architecture. One of the largest ports in the world, this Dutch city is home to several world-famous architects and iconic buildings. In this experimental and encouraging architectural atmosphere, a project such as the Villa Rotterdam fits perfectly in place.
Designed by Ooze Architects, an award-winning Rotterdam-based architectural firm, this project has received critical acclaim for its innovative design. Ooze was founded in 2003 by architects Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg. They lead a team of experienced architects who consistently come up with inventive solutions to modern architectural issues. Their work is seen around the world, including in India where they recently worked on ‘Forest Life’ – a commercial/residential project close to Hyderabad.
Villa Rotterdam is a detached family home which, over the last few decades, was extended several times. In addition to the main two perpendicular buildings with a pitched roof, the property included a semi-circle building in between the two and several extensions on the other side, creating a “hook-shaped” house.
Ooze was first called in to re-design the kitchen, but the commission soon extended into an extensive renovation of the property. The brief was to “recycle the soul of the house by transforming it in an unusual way”. The owners wanted to keep the existing structure, but add more rooms and bring it all in, in a coherent and beautiful way.
Since the structure was already standing, the villa’s striking new design was based on ‘the maximum permissible building envelope’ as defined by the local zoning plans. The Ooze team simply connected the allocated points for ridge height and the depth permitted and came up with this intriguing modern design – a new skin for the house that covered the house on top like a hat. The ‘skin’ also works as a load carrier bearing the weight of the new floors and roof.
In the redesign, the staircase formed the backbone of the home with the renovated kitchen and additional bedrooms adding to the existing rooms. The staircase connects the first and second floors.
Taking inspiration from the old roof, the architects came up with beautiful, pre-fabricated solid wood triangles that form the ‘skin’. The triangles, inset with glass, flow through the house and the roof, bringing in light and movement indoors. The old walls were left intact. So the higher up the house you go, the newer it becomes. The addition of the light-filled stairwell, though, ensures that the house gets light from every side.
The intriguing aspect of using the wood triangles as the focal design feature was that by simply varying the thickness of the wood, it could be used for the wall, roof, staircase or interior wall. In the architects’ words, “The result is a succession of spaces where the difference between the ceiling, wall and floor are gone and thus overlap.” In their design, Ooze incorporated traditional Dutch architectural features like sedum green roofs and 15 cm black-stained planks.
At the completion of the project, the satisfied client said, “The house is a precedent in establishing a new culture of dealing with an existing structure. The new and old come together, in fact they are melted together. The old does not disappear, it is enhanced, and all shapes of the original are still there. The new reacts to it and explodes the space, and creates an interesting expression. Everything has its value and all shapes have a reason.”
All shapes have a reason. For any architect, this is the perfect compliment. For Ooze, their elegant and exceptional design (it was nominated for the Rotterdam Architectuurprijs 2012) helped reclaim the past while keeping the structure firmly in the present.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Jeroen Musch & Ooze