Project Title: The Black Pearl Residence
Façade Design: Studio Rolf.fr i.s.m. Zecc Architecten
Interior Design: Studio Rolf.fr
Program: Residence and Workshop
Date: 2008 – 2010
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
I think it was love at first site! That’s what I felt when we received the images from Rolf.fr and Zecc architecten. The Black Pearl, the residence of my dreams; especially for the story it carries. An abandoned and neglected house in a disadvantaged neighborhood; this is what this residence was all about some years ago.
This house has been restored due to a specific program which is carried out by the city of Rotterdam; the municipality wanted to revive “disadvantaged neighborhoods by selling metier houses to private persons.” Most buildings used to operate as apartment buildings; on the contrary, they are now sold as a single family residence, with one restriction, that the building should be renovated within a specified time frame. This results to less, but larger houses quite an awkward trend as opposed to what happens in most major cities. Zecc Architecten preserved the original façade but revived it, in their own unique way. They painted the entire façade black in an attempt to experiment with time and space and with a glossy black oil lacquer they painted the original masonry, frames and windows of this building. New white steel framed transparent windows pierce through the historical façade as they make a strong presence, thus creating an interpretation of the merged elements of the present and the past. “All floors and small rooms behind the old windows run into one spatially contiguous entity.”
Only the exterior frame of the building was kept; thus using it as a box where a new spatial scheme would unfold itself in the interior. All the walls and the flooring were gutted out consequently leaving a space of five meters wide, ten meters long and eleven meters high. Zecc Architecten and Studio Rolf.fr went about assigning uses in this empty box, the height was used in such a way that it created three different levels: the studio, the house and the roof garden. The communal space of what is used as the studio and workshop is located on the ground floor having a height of five meters. The studio has been kept in an open plan spatial arrangement; a less private tone has been given by leaving a large window opening on the ground floor façade. The furnishings of the studio have been arranged along the walls, (where this was possible) to allow an open plan. A glossy white staircase connects the main living area to the ground floor studio the main living area has a height of six meters.
To follow the open plan design scheme a sculpture was built in the main living area which divides the space into several areas without creating closed rooms. The sculpture is designed and positioned in such a way within the interior that somehow in various areas of the house views arise which emphasize the length, height and width of the interior space. The design undulates in the remaining spaces between the object and the existing walls. The sculpture is composed of screwed together bars which form both the construction and the finishing. A large part of the object hangs with these bars on the roof floor so that support becomes superfluous.
Image Courtesy of Studio Rolf.fr and Zecc Architecten
Apart from the exterior, in the interior three achromatic colors were used, black, and white and grey which was used in three greyscales. The two brick interior walls which run lengthwise of the house were left untreated, but one was painted in white, while the other was left untouched as it presents the brick construction element of the past. The traces of construction as well as all the old railings and pipes have been treated in white paint as well. The different sides of the sculptural element have been painted in three tones of grey; these shades are aligned to the space they enclose, in this way the space between the object and the existing box are reinforced.
In an attempt to retain traces of the historical building the holes of the removed banisters and floor joists reveal the original floor layout. A new house has been developed in this 100 year old building which has a completely different arrangement and program. The original layout which composed the floors and the ceilings may be missing but instead it has been replaced by a series of small wooden slats that compose the sculptural element. The uninterrupted interior space creates areas which are linked by voids, large staircases and long sightlines. A spatial abstraction is created in this open plan space; the floors, walls, ceilings and stairs blend into one through the use of open plan and voids creating an “Escher-like” arrangement.
This house which was abandoned for the past thirty years has turned out to be a unique Black Pearl, and has been approached in a totally out of the box architectural design arrangement. In my opinion, what gives this house the Black Pearl luster and superiority is the cold black oxidized steel which has been used in the kitchen and dining floor area as well as in various furniture pieces. The Black Pearl residence is surely a spectacular dwelling which will be the talk of town for many!