The House S project from dmvA, an architecture firm in Belgium, proves that vernacular form is transitional. House S is located in Mechelen, a city that was once the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands (present-day Belgium and Holland). Mechelen has one of the highest concentrations of monuments North of the Alps, and is unique in Flanders in being listed not once but four times on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites. The project questions my once limited vision of property ownership and vernacular intervention. A home is what you make of it not really what it is when you buy it. The preamble is simple and common; purchase a home to make memories and build a family. This straightforward idea is one of the most important and difficult decision many families make. As the number of children is perhaps uncertain, the institution sometimes outgrows the home. In the case of the family of House S, options were weighted and a decision to stay and find an innovative way to add space was the solution. Stay and Rebuild!
As with any dwellings within a community, regulations must be met and followed. This was no exception.
"The existing house was extended according to building regulations, 17 meters ground floor, 13 meters first floor and 9 meters saddle roof." - by dmvA
The addition needed a subtle yet practical solution that allowed not only the spatial requirements requested to accommodate the family, but also an experience full of comfort, well being, and connectivity. Lighting conditions were poor due to the height and depth of the home so dmvA decided to create an occupiable void in order to maximize space and light. The solution was a three-level perforation through the home and glass encased to allow natural light to filter throughout the entire space.
The concept of the void lies in the central value of the family it holds. "The concept of the central void with glass floors also bears an educational aspect. By means of the glass floors, a spacial transparency is created through which all spaces are connected. Children are brought up with the emphasis of living together as one of the main principles of education. At the same time everyone has a disposal of his or her own space." - by dmvA
Architecturally, the home addition has three components: the facade, the central light void and the back. dmvA treated all three very different, allowing them to take on their own characteristics that would serve not only the family but also its context to the street and garden. The facade is limited in transparency as it faces the urban arteries and light is protected by a contemporary translation of perforated sun screens; it acts as the protector of the family as it separates the street from the interior of the home. The 'light wall' connects the home and allows the maximum light into the space. It fills it with energy, opportunity and interactivity. No wonder the kids enjoy their time in this transparent threshold! The back opens into the garden and backyard. It is light and transparent, allowing full visibility to the interiors. No need for protection. No need for privacy. A complete connection to the family.
The interiors of the addition are simple, modern, practical and interactive. Clean lines allow light to be the primary focus. Nooks of storage, hidden stairs and the absence of color maintain a serene feeling to the space that at times rewards you with a vista of nature. The central volume gives you the experience of a much bigger space. dmvA delivers the family not only a new space but a place for memories for many years to come. The work is an exemplary process of sensibility, practicality and innovation to the needs of the family.