Body House

by Monolab
Body House Monolab

The site of this private house is part of a residential redevelopment in Katendrecht, a harbor pier south of Hotel New York. Until the 1970’s Katendrecht was still completely surrounded by harbors and ships. It was Rotterdam’s China Town and red light district. Currently it is incorporated in the ‘Kop van Zuid’ redevelopment as southern part of the city center.
Void:
The house occupies a free plot in one of three rows of seven houses. We occupied a void that existed between the two neighboring houses.
Heart:
The program was very simple; there was no exhaustive list with spaces and square meters. The clients wished a living area with cooking & dining space at the heart of the house. Sleeping and bathing could function in a more peripheral way. In order to keep the living as empty as possible, we planted all program — except the cooking & dining space — in a plinth. The heart could then hover freely in the void over the plinth.
Isolation:
In the beginning the position of the heart in the exterior envelope was one of isolation. The question was how to connect it to the four exterior sides of the envelope. As we developed a wire frame to carry the heart, the issue became the structural and spatial behavior of this frame. Connections to the outside could be made in different ways.
Body:
The wire frame grew during the design process and connected to the plinth and the roof. Since the wire frame contained program it is covered by a skin. It became something like a mass, a body, a caged predator. We shaped it to upgrade the qualities of the void around. It has been cut like a rough diamond to avoid curved expensive surfaces and because blobs are non-critical. The result is a faceted body of which parts are covered with different types of skin: metal grill, glass, particle sheet with epoxy coating and synthetic fabric. The body contains the kitchen/dining space; however it also absorbs functions that in a loose lay-out would disrupt the open character of the living space, like trajectories for cables, pipes and ducts, heating and ventilation systems, the toilets and the bathroom. It takes care of infrastructure and moving patterns by four stairs, partly visible, partly secret and is the connector of plinth, roof and living. The body has made contact with the outside world by four wooden devices: a pivoting facade slab which serves as the entry with the letters ‘use’ of ‘body house’, a flipping door towards the patio, a tilting plank towards the terrace on top of the patio and a shifting plateau to the roof.
Eye:
The body attaches itself in the big facade opening at the front and deforms itself towards the panoramic view of the river. The front facade is facetted like an insect’s eye and is pulled in and pushed out by the body. Three facets were glazed, the one below directed onto the context (the park), the one in the center focusing westward onto the river and the upper one spreading out to frame the ever changing Rotterdam skyline with its concentrations of Dutch ‘high rises’.
Lung:
The intestines of the body are important. Apart from its Ethernet connection with brain center, the ventilation unit acts as a lung, breathing inside. A tentacle connected itself to the entry facade to inhale fresh air via the second letter ‘O’ of Body House letters on the front facade.

Urban Stack:
The Body House is an urban stack of three small projects. Below and on top are two extremely opposite housing concepts. Below is the fixed, interiorized, dark, heavy, robust, concrete plinth. On top is the roof terrace as ‘campsite’ with a free, open, light, flexible, flimsy, nylon tent. In-between is the big living space with the body, a volume inside a second envelope, a concept that normally is to be found in big buildings.
Costs:
The Body House was built on a very low budget. This was feasible because of accurate 3D-design, precise preparation and use of prefabricated elements. The exterior and body were built in five months. Unfortunately the city administration of Rotterdam, that managed the building process of the private houses at Parkkwartier Katendrecht, caused a delay of approximately 1.5 year. Due to inflation on the price of materials this delay increased the building costs. As a result, the owners of the house are managed the interior, supervised by Monolab.

Photos courtesy of Monolab

Source: ANP

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