Kraaijvanger Architects - The Black Swan, a zero-energy family house in The Netherlands
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The Black Swan, a zero-energy family house in The Netherlands

Kraaijvanger Architects

Villa  /  Completed
Kraaijvanger Architects

The brief was to create a house for a family of 4, with natural (C2C) materials and zero-energy, merging with the beautiful landscape. The building site borders on a Natura2000 area. The paradox of the design is to open up the landscape and yet give privacy to the vast terrain in the rear. Thus, two parallel volumes are conceived: the main house and a guesthouse with garage. Towards the north and east the house is cladded in black stained timer. Living quarters are opening up towards the south and west, the water and the garden. The design is single storey, with a cantilevered roof to extent the space and shield terraces on 2 sides. The panoramic view of the living room can be changed and controlled by a large curtain (designed by InsideOutside).

The prototypical manmade Dutch landscape of strokes of water and ground is the canvas of the plan. Extended over the full width, two building volumes mimicry the structure of the environment on a smaller scale: Volume and void alternate like water and land. The entries of both buildings are facing each other as indents on either side of the in-between courtyard. From here, the view concentrates on a monumental honey-tree. The deep view of the main corridor and the living area focuses on the perspective of full grown meta-sequoia’s along the water. The balance between water and land is fragile, and grounds can be squashy at times; therefore the main house is lifted on a podium, 400 mm above the ground. The terrasses float over the water.

The design is based on cradle-to-cradle principles: natural materials in a demountable structure of steel and timber. With one child being sensitive to allergies, there was extra inspiration for a healthy home. The house is all-electric, all lighting is LED. PV-panels provide the energy for a zero-on-the-meter house. Insulation levels are 30% over the required standars. Cantilevered roofs protect from heat-load while allowing for passive solar energy in wintertime.

The projects aims to be at the same time modest and precise, beautiful and functional, autonomous and fitting in the landscape, minimalist and surprisingly spacious. The house is single-storey, but extents itself over the water and into the garden by the terraces. The main forms are rectangular and simple as is the composition of solid walls and glass; terraces and indents in the volumes (accentuated by light timber) are functional and yet an enrichment of the plan. The black stained timber in three different sizes fits with all vertical dimensions (windows, doors, countertop, ceiling etc. Windows are highlighted by aluminium frames in Navajo-red (quoting Frank Lloyd Wright). Bedrooms are modest in seize, compensated by the spacious living/kitchen area, that opens up towards the nature and the water.

The characteristic ceiling of tapered wood is concealing all additional functions like acoustic adsorption, light fittings, detectors and a curtain rail that traverses the whole plan. Architecturally, the ceiling is extending indoor spaces outwards, creating space-continuity. The interior is determined by the bespoke L-shaped build-in furniture, integrating (indoor and outdoor) kitchen, cupboards, pivoting and sliding doors, cupboards and the bench-with-fireplace in a single gesture. The oregon pinewood defines the character and contributes to the sense of space.

The clients, including the children, have been involved in every inch of the project making their own models, selecting interior elements like sanitary, electricity and materials, i.p. the concrete floor. Yet, they have shown to be surprised and happy by the beauty of the design, and the connection between architecture and nature. Family life takes off.


 the Netherlands
 3222 mq
  NaN.00 €
 Dirk Jan Postel, Kraaijvanger architects
 Dirk Jan Postel with Jik Mosch, Bart van der Werf, Chantal Vos, Patrick Keijzer
 Eveloc, Hilversum
 Pieters Bouwtechniek, Delft (structural engineer) Inside Outside, Amsterdam (curtain)
 13Speciaal, Rotterdam (interiors)
 Christian Richters


Kraaijvanger Architects is an internationally operating architectural firm, founded in 1927 and based Rotterdam where we work with about 70 professionals on a wide variety of projects.
In everything we do, it is our ambition to reconnect people and nature through timeless architecture with a positive social and ecological footprint.

With generous, inclusive designs, we serve our client and society. Our designs have the resilience to accommodate the diversity of constantly changing social needs and activities. And shows a wide variety of projects: from revitalization of cities, large public buildings and innovative industries to housing, interiors, and specials.
We share a strong belief in the future, and that is why we work on sustainable buildings that purify the air, contain biodiversity, share space in surprising ways, provide energy, make people healthier and happier, and are 100% reusable; buildings with a positive footprint.

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