The project is located in Humbeek, a small town in the municipality of Grimbergen, in the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium.
Studio Farris Architects were asked to design a family house on a small plot alongside the Canal ‘Brussel-Scheldt Maritime’ which divides the village in two.
The client asked to demolish the existing semi-detached house and design on the same plot a new house to maximize view and connection with the canal.
None of the existing houses along the canal has any connection with the water. The living spaces are organized on the ground floor with windows facing the street; those are too low to allow any view to the water and due to privacy issues, the windows are obscured with curtains. It gives the perception of total disconnection with the context and with the public realm.
The new project wants to strongly blend in with the context and at the same time uncover the potential of the existing plot.
The typological form of the adjacent house characterized by the gable roof has been accurately followed to create a fluent continuity.
The living space has moved to the first floor to allow a panoramic view of the canal.
A terrace that overlooks the canal has been created by cutting off half of the ‘roof volumetry’ from the ridgeline of the roof.
By cutting off the volume along the ridgeline (highest point of the volume) a spectacular glass façade was created. New boundaries were created from the inside to the outside and vice versa.
In order to create privacy and quietness, the architect perforated the volume with two ‘Japanese’ courtyards, that refer to Carlo Scarpa's work (a homage from the architect to his reference master in Venice at the I.U.A.V). The courtyard facing the streetside became a sort of filter between the new volume and the street.
This small garden is hidden behind the transparent and filtering front gate of the house. A tree gives scale and warmth to the courtyard.
The bedrooms on the ground floor face the courtyards creating an inner intimate relation (outdoor-indoor). The courtyards connect the different spaces and two floors of the house creating a strong interconnection between the different functions and spaces. The exterior and interior are being layered in both plan and section. The exterior has become an interior in multiple dimensions.
The project is not conceived as a hi-tech machine to solve energy issues but rather as a whole approach based on climate, culture, history.
The living space, oriented south-west, is protected with sun screening for the summertime and enjoys natural ventilation just by opening opposite windows in the open living space. In winter, the big window helps to heat up the inside space.
The bedrooms are naturally protected by the courtyards which guarantee shadow through all the seasons.
The courtyards are on permeable soil and are designed to store rainwater that will be reuse for the toilets and garden water.
Solar panels on the roof produce 60% of the house's electricity consumption.
The choice of bricks for the façade refers to the specific intent to connect with the context and tradition of Belgian architecture, as Belgium has a strong tradition and local production of bricks.
Studio Farris Architects is an architecture studio in Antwerp (Belgium) and was founded by the Italian architect Giuseppe Farris in 2008. The studio has a varied portfolio with projects such as the renovation of the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, the Park Tower in Antwerp, the library in Bruges, the Antwerp zoo, the cultural center in the Hagenland and the extension and renovation of the Hilton hotel in Antwerp.
It is SFA's goal to uncover the intrinsic potential in every project, to question the obvious, to explore the environment and cultural heritage.