Conversion of the Rotelenberg house by De Vylder Vinck Taillieu architects in Oudenaarde.
The project is situated at the foot of Koppenberg hill, in the landscape that is so characteristic of Flemish classic cycle races. The building is packed with memories of the ‘good old days’ and the young couple are keen to integrate them into their new home. It was decided to retain only the outer shell and to be creative with the scars and accidents this yielded.
For instance, a mirror below the edge of the roof conceals a new concrete ring beam, and at the same time appears to raise the roof in a playful deconstruction of what was there before, and of what you would normally expect here. The sides of two new dormer windows are also clad with mirrors, and the northern façade is covered with insulation and simple slates that are painted with a brick motif. This trompe l’oeil undermine one’s expectations. They seem to give the conversion the uncertain status of a mirage, but at the same time offer a glimpse of the endless possibilities fostered by the interior of the building. Like the new floor of the upper storey, for instance, which literally passes across an existing window. So there is some latitude in the old and new appearance of the house: inside and outside do not seem to be geared to each other, and this creates opportunities.
This latitude is given literal form in the new plan. Inside the old shell, a new building was erected in greenhouse glass and builder’s scaffolding: a house within a house, with the living area on the ground floor, a double-height play area with two children’s rooms on the first floor and a mezzanine under the roof. The kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom are in what was originally the rear part of the building and are linked directly to the main glass volume by means of several steps and through-views. The ‘greenhouse’ is located 1.5 metres from the front and western facades, creating an ‘in-between zone’ that buffers the internal temperature of the house and also acts as a channel for entry and outward views. It introduces an unprecedented height into the interior of the building, visually connects all of its parts and offers a spectacular view of the original façade of the house.
The construction is charged with the domesticity of the familiar personal detail: a stove the owners tiled themselves stands in the middle of the house, a block of rough stone serves as the first step up to the first floor, a triangular hole in the floor enables an original window to be opened to let some air in, and mirrors set against the inside of the roof multiply the household clutter. It is partly due to the appropriation of such details by the occupants that the house gradually developed inside the old shell.
This text is based on an article by Stefan Devoldere, published in Architecture Review Flanders N°10. Radical Commonplaces. European Architectures from Flanders.