The extensive Dutch lowlands are marked by clean-cut regular geometries. Roads, canals and crop rows denote the boundaries between fields, allotments and watercourses. Today, however, these are shifting boundaries undergoing rapid change.
On-The-Edge embodies the essence of being on the confines between two dimensions, two lifestyles. It sums up a place and condition poised between city and country, between contemporary living and tradition, nature and artifice, archetype and innovation.
Sited on one of the last available plots of a new residential area on the edge of the Dutch city of Zoetermeer between The Hague and Rotterdam, the residence takes its cue from the very fact that it stands at a point where town and country come together.
Thatched roofs, stone and plaster walls are part of the age-old Dutch building tradition. Arjen Reas has harnessed these traditional forms and materials to build a contemporary version of a rural home. Tightly compacted thatch has been continued down over smooth white plastered outer walls. Sturdy, solid materials of yore are here used to create purity and regularity of form and volume. It is almost as if pure form were being used to impose order and rigueur on a landscape that is no longer rural but not yet urban.
Compact thatching protects the house against the elements. The white plastered walls are punctuated by openings, entrances and thresholds connecting exterior and interior, the space of human habitation and nature. Openings are arranged so as to optimize the dialogue between occupants and their natural surrounds, with a series of views oriented towards the open countryside. Lying perpendicular to the road, the residence develops lengthwise towards the fields, as if to mark a symbolic passage from city to nature. In fact a compact entrance porch on the side facing the road gives ways to larger, more frequent glazed lights as the building develops towards the back where a full-length portico opens out onto the countryside.
The approach to the house both on foot and by car is on the short facade facing the city. In front of the house, two low white walls, extensions of the perimeter, mark out the access ramp to the garage, and lead us into the house via an open area. The lower level has space for one car and two storerooms. A large entrance leads to the staircase that in turn takes you into the body of the house.
On the ground floor, once past an entrance area, the kitchen and living area are laid out in sequential fashion, finishing with a sitting room at the back that looks out on to the fields beyond.
The master bedroom on the first floor has views over the fields from a central alcove, the shower and even from the bathtub. The loft has a walk-in cupboard area as well as three other bedrooms.
By embracing its essential condition of being on the edge, this project - of the same name - seems to be adopting its own private strategy to stop the advancing city by reclaiming contact with the countryside and its characteristic extensive views.