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Architecture in the wild

A special location invites special architecture, with which people claim their place in nature. As the five projects discussed here show. “Everywhere you are embraced by nature.”

Text: Jeroen Junte

The WIND House – UNStudio

The WIND House by the international architectural firm UNStudio is located like a four-leaf clover in the polders of North Holland. It is a rural villa with classic wings but a contemporary expressive shape. “The various living functions such as sleeping, working, cooking and bathing are divided over the four clover leaves, albeit criss-cross, for example sleeping above the music room,” says architect Ben van Berkel. “The house has no columns or load-bearing interior walls. The flexible open rooms are connected by a transparent-looking staircase. You can move through the house in a kind of infinite 8-shape and still be in constant contact with each other.”

Private rooms such as bedrooms and an office are located at the back of the organic villa overlooking a forest edge. At the front, the kitchen and dining room face an extensive polder landscape. “But the floor plan of the house is deliberately flexible, so that it can be relatively adapted to changing living conditions, for example when the children leave home.” The remarkable clover shape is also a way to connect the house with the vast polder landscape. The side walls are closed, the front and rear facades are entirely made of glass. A graceful notch in these glass facades demarcates the 'cloverleaves' in windows that are slanted to each other. This creates ever-changing views of the surroundings from the four wings, just as the four seasons flow smoothly into each other. “Because the glass has a reflective coating, you sometimes see a dark reflection of nature in the opposite window, which gives an almost surreal effect.” The spacious roof terrace spanning the full width of the villa offers a grand view: from there you can look for miles over the flat polder landscape.

The interior is full of home automation. With a touchscreen in the stairwell, the living environment can be controlled throughout the house, but also for each room separately. Safety and sustainable gadgets such as cold and heat storage and solar panels are also coordinated in this way. “We ultimately created a comfortable and energy-neutral home.” It smart home is finished with sustainable wood in a decorative relief on the side walls for maximum load-bearing capacity and efficient water drainage.

With his office UNStudio, Van Berkel designs grand and compelling architecture such as the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam or the metro system of Doha, Qatar. Yet he personally looked into The WIND House. “The design of a home is an intimate inventory of a personal life. How do the residents live together? How do they stand up? How do they eat? What are their rituals? It is precisely in this small scale that the essence of architecture lies: creating safe, pleasant living environments.” Photo: Fedde de Weert

Dune Villa – Hilberink Bosch Architects

The Dune Villa from architectural firm Hilberink Bosch has three different living levels, all of which are on the ground floor. How that is possible? Due to its location on a dune of drifting sand on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. “The architecture is modeled around this difference in level,” says architect Geert Bosch. The villa is made up of five concrete blocks slabs that have been pushed into the dune in a connected manner. From the living room on the first floor you walk up to the dune top, from the ground floor you have a view of the lower natural garden and from the indoor swimming pool you walk straight into the forest, while - through the stairs to the upper living room - it feels like a basement. “Wherever you are, in the office, the guesthouse, the living room, the swimming pool or on one of the four terraces, you are embraced by nature everywhere.”

The villa owes its stacked shape to the client's wish to make enough space for his art collection. “That's why we opted for long straight walls.” To avoid a sharp cut between the sleek architecture and nature, architect Bosch has demarcated this boundary very gradually. The concrete terrace and the sand and grass intertwine like long fingers. The rainwater is collected in a rectangular pond that coincides with the sleek architecture, but gradually changes into a whimsical natural pond and ultimately ends in the forest. From the street there is first a kind of courtyard with access to the various residential functions: garage, guesthouse and front door. But an underpass of the house - you literally walk under the living room and accompanying terrace - immediately gives a sneak preview of the nature behind it.

Due to the balanced use of materials, the Dune Villa is not only embraced by greenery, nature has also been brought inside. “We took pine bark to the brick factory to choose a brick with the right color palette. This ultimately became a stone made of three types of clay. The length varies from twenty to one hundred centimeters, so that it is not monotonous brickwork but a whimsical stone wall that looks like tree bark.” The birch grove that had to be cut down for construction has been processed by designer Piet Hein Eek into an organic wall cupboard in which the entire trunk is visible. The bronze-colored frames made of anodized aluminum change color intensity under the influence of sunlight. Even the concrete looks natural, because it has exactly the same color as the dune sand. “Initially we wanted to make concrete from that dune sand, but that turned out not to be possible due to the grain structure. However, the concrete is finished in different ways: from rough brushed on the terrace to glossy polished in the entrance hall, and everything in between.” In this way, Hilberdink Bosch used only three materials: wood, concrete and natural brick. “Some restraint is appropriate in a landscape that was formed in the Ice Age.”


You can read about the other special projects in MASTERS #47. Never miss anything from MASTERS again? With 4 controversial MASTERS editions, the annual LXRY LIST and many more extras, you can easily enjoy reading at home: substantive reports, great photography and unique brands, trends and places in the world. Give it as a gift to yourself or a loved one. Easily close your subscription now here af.Photo: Jeroen Junte