Home within a home
Architects: DVVT (Jan De Vylder ,Inge Vinck, Jo Taillieu)
Assistants: Indra Janda, Sebastian Skovsted, Olivier Goethals
Location: Mendel – Oudernaade- Belgium
Year of construction: 2007-2011
Structural design: Progettazione Strutturale Arthur De Roover, Gand
Finishes: Da Eegh em BVBA, Sint-Amandsberg; Alumetal BVBA, Wingene
Roofing: Ducla BVBA, Beernem
Total area: Superficie m² 182
Photos: Filip Dujardin
Rot-ellen-berg is in the typical Flemish village of Mendel with its characteristic brick houses. This building used to be a roadside pub that was very popular with cyclists on Sundays. The clients are great art lovers and with a very contemporary style of urban living that was difficult to adapt to the closed austere spaces of the former building. So architects and clients worked together to find the right domestic spaces and setting, organized around the stratified living space.
The Rot-ellen-berg project reflects the choice to maintain the shell intact, much appreciated by the townspeople of Melden, as the building maintains its identity as an important part of village life. The DVVT Studio design began with the materials and associated working techniques, perhaps using them in a slightly improper way but which was justified by the structural needs.
These requirements led to a project where the contemporary heart metaphorically and materially reflects a space that conserves intact the form and materials that are enhanced by the “patina of time”. On two sides of the building the masonry work is on show, and the traces of plaster have not been touched, while the north side is covered by protective layers of rhomboid shaped sheets, a form that is concealed by the fake brick painted texture. Two reflecting steel dormer windows, a reflecting border between the roof and walls, and a bright red entrance door are all unusual details and indicate that something has definitely changed.
The previous building was gutted and inside now protects the new “glass house”. The reconstruction of the new concrete floors would have affected the previous counter-façade so the architects De Vylder, Vinck and Taillieu decided to use a self-bearing structure formed of metal framework and wood formwork, a temporary construction kit like Meccano, that is independent from the shell, meaning it can be composed and recomposed in a self-building process, which enables modulating the interiors according to the living needs. The clients were delighted with this technical solution as they wanted very flexible spaces that well adapted to their lifestyle. The choice of positioning an internal modular transparent volume solves the problems of bioclimatic and technical lighting distribution excellently in a totally ecofriendly manner. The previous brickwork gives protection from the outside, i.e. the road, and the inside greenhouse cannot be seen because it is not attached to the counter-façade but separated by an entrance hall and a corridor that forms an “insulating air cushion”, an architectural solution that satisfies the needs of not just engineering sustainability. The glass façade is used in a very unusual way in this building, is situated inside it is totally transparent and shows the entire interiors defining the functional spaces. The living area can be extended or reduced by opening and closing the glass sliding doors, which offer economic and environmental advantages because less space needs heating.
This space is conceived to change, to double as the seasons change, to become a winter house inside a summer house. The position and properties of the transparent glass-metal walls enable the light to flow through the traditional windows in the old building shell, and enable fully perceiving the entire extension of the interiors full of light.
The crystal space is designed like an open loft, with the children’s bedrooms situated along the corridors, the bathroom in the basement and the master bedroom and kitchen towards the centre of the house for greater privacy. The glass house ensures the other rooms are guaranteed the right level of privacy as well by using blackout blinds to be closed on need, which run along the metal and glass frames in the partition walls.
This urban style contemporary living using glass and steel is in contrast with the typical middle class houses, and the quiet village life and ways of Flemish culture, but it perfectly fits into its surroundings and fully satisfies the clients’ way of living.
By Elisa Ghedin
Acciaio Arte Architettura 61