New living environments

Fig. 1
View of corner apartment block.

New living environments

In the master studio Research by design, we were to redevelop an area called Neerland in Antwerp as a new housing environment. In collaboration with Christiaan Rijnen a masterplan was designed in which then individually an apartment block.

The open area Neerland in Wilrijk is located on the border between city and countryside. A transition is created between these two by making the site serve as a permeable filter. Nature penetrates the site through the southeast while the city penetrates it from the north. This way a relationship is created between the two, so in some places one dominates over the other and vice versa. In addition, through vistas a link between the two is established. The residential street is a central line in the masterplan that in terms of pavement branches itself in different ways to nature and city.

Fig. 2
The proposed master plan incorporating four housing types: apartment block, row-house, patio-house and free-standing houses.

In the southeast, open space and buildings manifest themselves in the form of courtyard housing, with greenery as the dominant factor. Here, the houses are arrange as pavilions in the parkland. The arrangement allows for both open and intimate atmospheres. Towards the Neerlandweg the rowhousing typology is applied where buildings and open space have an equal presence. Rowhousing manifest itself from street and square and next to private gardens to the rear, they include a central communal garden. By making use of vistas, a visual connection is made here to the parkland. Clusters of patio housing are situated between the apartment blocks. Here, buildings are the dominant factor, where greenery is more structured and enclosed and pavement is more present. Apartment blocks are fitted with enclosed or semi-enclosed communal gardens that focus to the park landscape to create vistas and to establish a connection with the surrounding building typologies. This, together with the creation of a qualitative street frontage along the Krijgslaan and Neerlandweg, provides the basis for their shape.

The apartment blocks are structured according to a well-defined grid through which an intelligent frame is created. At ground level mainly commercial and collective programs occupy the public street-facing façades. Furthermore, dwellings are located along the residential streets within the site. By applying different modules, a wide variety of housing units is provided. The modules consist of one to three bedroom apartments, including a duplex unit, each with an outdoor space in the form of a balcony or roof terrace.. The structure provides the flexibility to implement the modules in different places and combinations. This possibility of different arrangements of the modules then allows the façade to not be monotonous. Furthermore, this is enhanced by applying different window types defined within the grid.

The two apartment blocks are designed according to the same idea to form a leitmotiv in the whole. Furthermore, they together form one large street frontage along the Krijgslaan.


Fig. 3 & 4
Ground floor with commercial spaces, bicycle stalls and two houses, and second floor plan showing three apartment types—three-bedroom, two-bedroom, and two-bedroom duplex—and two three-bedroom houses.

“In architecture, there are two necessary ways of being true. It must be true according to the programme and true according to the methods of construction. To be true according to the programme is to fulfil exactly and simply the conditions imposed by need; to be true according to the methods of construction, is to employ the materials according to their qualities and properties … purely artistic questions of symmetry and apparent form are only secondary conditions in de presence of our dominating principles.”

—Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Entretiens sur l’architecture. (1863 – 1872).

Windows from floor to ceiling provide the apartments with plenty of daylight and as well minimize the boundary between the inside and the outside. By placing the windows of the private apartments deeper into the façade, the facade gets a more solid appearance. These windows visually indicate the housing program. With collective and commercial spaces the windows are set flush with the façade surface, clarifying the functions. The façade is clad with red brick, typical for the region as well as for Belgium as a country. The courtyard façade a natural stone plinth is used for a more friendly atmosphere and daylight reflection.

Fig. 5
Detail of the façade in elevation, plan and section.