Saturday, September 20, 2008

Netherlands: Growth Dwellings

Diagram courtesy of the Architect

One of the projects offering greater consumer choice is the Growth Dwellings by Laura Weeber. Produced as part of the “Bouw Expo 2001” in Almere, these 37 units were commissioned to explore a new type of housing that utilized professional developers, but responded to various needs and wishes of the future owners. It was Weeber’s intention that the design would “provide enough possibilities to compose different houses for all thinkable lifestyles, it would guarantee privacy and it would generate an architectural form that would hold the whole project together as an entity, no matter the amount of accessories the owners wish add to their house.”

Each home is basically a modular design, with a base unit of three segments that can be easily added onto in the front or the back. The original siting is up to the client.

The form is striking, and the arched roof ensures a strong visual and formal connection to the entire community, even after additions are made. They are really quite beautiful and associate with what is a home, at least in the American sense, or maybe I should better say the bungalow. They are all staggered in their layout which gives it a nice variety even though it is the same house. I think the water really builds the character of them. You can feel they are more dynamic and changing. The porches are pretty nice, although probably not that functional. They make for great pictures.

As for the extensions, the architect told me only one has been added onto so far. But, on site, I couldn’t tell. I guess that is the point. If you do, you don’t notice it. It is precisely a hidden addition. It is controlled, and supposed to be able to use standard building products and materials. It is modular, but it is not. Even though there is flexibility, the product produced at the beginning is very much a product based a limited set of components. But it works well with or without additions, and the variety of the sizes bring subtle changes to the fabric. If someone wants to add on, they will have to hire their own contractor as the one who originally built the homes is too big for a job like an addition. And, you don’t have a lot of options, but you know it is an affordable option, and you wouldn’t have to hire an architect. You actually buy the product for the house itself and its expandability, as limited as it is. Is this better than most American suburban houses, which weren’t designed to be added onto, but often take many additions? Is there more or less variety? How much of an issue is form?

It would be nice to see more of these built, but I would not be surprised if they remain a one off project. The architect said she hoped there would be more built, but there aren’t any plans at the moment.

Across the canal was flexible housing by UN Studio, which was also designed to be extendable. While there were clear intentions for such to take place, I was unable to see any new additions. Each project does complement each other, though.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Cool communities. I really like these homes too, but you know I'm a super big fan of the American perhaps it simply follows that I would like a Dutch version.

Did you happen to see any interior drawings and/or actual interiors?

And, I'm curious to know -- if you were to utilize a similar framework for developing housing for the disenfranchised population in the U.S., would you utilize the same concepts of utility that were identified in the Dutch project? For example, given the modularity and the ability for home owners to expand -- would you focus on extensibility for each specific dwelling, or would you constrain the base design to optimize land use and to increase the size of the community?