Eagles of Architecture designed the conversion of a small 1930s house for an older couple. It is an entirely inconspicuous corner building, but because it is part of a smart street block, the architects decided not to make any changes to the exterior. The clients wanted a home in which they could always hear one other. They were soon convinced by the appealing model, and so they commissioned this agreeable and accommodating project.
Eagles of Architecture started with a complete deconstruction of the house. They demolished the entire interior, including the walls and floors, and deepened the cellar. From this starting point, they built the house back up. Many elements were reintroduced, but not as they had been before. Every corner and space was reconsidered. In the final result, parts of walls have been omitted, others left without plaster, and furniture takes the place of walls and floors. The new interior enriches the spatial experience of the house, with diagonal views out to the surroundings and unexpected perspectives, but there is something unusual in every corner.
It all starts with the supporting structure. A concrete column cast in situ forms the new spine of the house and underpins the plan in both a literal and conceptual sense. The staircase, which has been cast around this element, links all the rooms together in a casual manner. The risers and treads determine the measurement system for the whole house. A seamless transition between the interior and the furniture reflects the collaboration between the contractor and the carpenter, resulting in an impressive standard of finish. The stairs spiral downwards from the living room to the dining area and compact kitchen, which acts as the ‘cockpit’ for the house, while the upward direction leads past a study recess, a TV room, a guest room, the bathroom and a bedroom. The roof provides a surprising end to the journey. Here too, what was removed has been returned, but in a different form. The trusses have given way to slender, angled steel girders resting on a ring beam, also in steel. Because the roof structure turned out to be rotten, everything had to be replaced.
The intention behind this project was an analysis of architectural logic: a challenge that Eagles of Architecture accepted with enthusiasm and which resulted in a new, self-developed architectural grammar. The overly conspicuous scars on the inside of the outer walls have been filled-in with graphically conceived areas of grey cement. The remaining parts of these walls are left bare and the electrics are mounted on the surface. Tie-bars that support a floor skim the surface of a wall. The struts of the banisters, made of sheet steel, follow the turns of the column with the utmost precision. The vertigo evoked by the spatial layout of the project extends to the choice of materials: it sometimes looks as if one could walk up the underside of the stairs, the finish of a wall is also used for a floor, the doormat at the entrance is visible from the cellar, furniture both stands and hangs.
Eagles of Architecture have transformed the ordinary programme of a house for two people into an architectural exercise and, even with a new roof and a Roman wall that unexpectedly turned up beneath the house, they still kept the project within budget. It is because this house demonstrates how architects can create their freedom for themselves, while also showing that they can have fun in their profession, that it was included in the selection for this book, and this despite its dubious technical sustainability: will this house ever be insulated? Architecture is a serious game and this project shows how it can be played.
- Eireen Schreurs
This project is published in Flanders Architectural Review N°14. When Attitudes Take Form