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Tuesday22 August 2017

Technical study: Atlas House, Eindhoven

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Monadnock has created a three-storey house of clarity, rigour and poetic flourishes on a Dutch woodland estate, writes Hugh Strange

Monadnock

Source: Stijn Bollaert

Large areas of unbroken brickwork lend solidity to the building


Project Atlas House
Architects Monadnock
Location Eindhoven

On the very outskirts of the Dutch city of Eindhoven, Atlas House, designed by Rotterdam-based architect Monadnock, appears almost fairytale-like in its edge-of-forest setting. The adjacent woodlands are part of a large rural estate previously owned by the Philips company which, though established and historically based in Eindhoven, is now gradually moving both production and offices away from the city. As a result, vast swaths of land around the city are being freed up and re-appropriated, including a stretch to the south of the centre, on which the new house stands. While the majority of the building here is being constructed with developer-led schemes, the thin strip directly adjacent to the woods has been allocated for sale as individual plots for private houses. The client’s site is located within this slither and in order to maximise its garden – though clearly also for the delight of a tower-like form on this particular site – the house has been arranged on three floors, rather than the prevalent two of its neighbours.

Monadnock

Source: Stijn Bollaert

The interiors are defined by exposed brickwork and pre-cast concrete planks

Interior

Square in plan, the building has been oriented at 45 degrees to the site, so that rather than a single elevation facing directly towards the woods, two facades are provided with long oblique views. On entering the house the logic of the internal arrangement, if not all of its spatial consequences, quickly becomes evident. The plan of each floor is sub-divided in a similar manner; to one side are three small rooms, with the staircase located within the middle of these, and on the other side, two larger, almost equally sized rooms. The simplicity of this arrangement allows direct access from the stair to each of the four adjacent rooms on every floor, resulting in a compact and efficient plan. There is also an implicit flexibility to this layout, and although the client currently has an office on the ground floor, kitchen, pantry, dining and living rooms on the first floor and bedroom, bathroom and guest rooms on the top floor, one can easily imagine many equally successful configurations.

Monadnock

Plan and section

The construction has a similar clarity and rigour, with all the internal walls constructed in exposed brickwork and the soffits of pre-cast concrete planks that are unlined. Concrete lintels to door and window openings are also expressed throughout the interiors. The precise logic of the plans and construction is transformed and enriched by both the sectional articulation and the window placement. The two intermediate slabs are stepped in section, resulting in shifts in both floor and ceiling heights that give each level a hierarchical balance between higher and lower spaces. Similarly, on each floor the size, height and exact placement of the windows, painted in a deep green, varies to suit the particular spatial condition. The windows have, however, always been placed close to the rooms’ outer edges and, together with the rotated orientation of the building, this embues the house with an expansive character; in each room one instinctively moves to the corner to look outwards.

Monadnock

Source: Stijn Bollaert

The window placement is a key element of the architectural character

Exterior

On the exterior of the building the sectional shifts have been concealed, while the fenestration significantly defines the house’s architectural character. Occasional views can be seen diagonally through the building’s corners, and the large areas of unbroken brickwork to the centre of each façade lend solidity to the building. At high level the top of the walls has been subtly lifted at each corner, a device that, together with the outwards draw of the windows, suggests that although constructed of heavy material, the four edge points might, fabric-like, have been gently pulled upwards to create a taut volume. This figure, reminiscent of Atlas carrying the sky, gives the house its name.

Monadnock

Sketch showing the upturned front elevation

The exterior of the building is also constructed in red brick, but here there is also a very considered articulation of surface at play. The upper floors have been coated in a cement wash, leaving the ground floor resembling a plinth, and the pointing, matching the wash in colour, protrudes, roughly unstruck, from the surface. In reference to the architecture of the Dutch Neo-Renaissance, where simple buildings were given greater articulation through decorative plasterwork, the wash has, in places, been applied so as to suggest classical elements such as keystones or cornices. This desire to engage with architectural culture and history, and to evoke poetic narratives beyond the building’s immediate site, together with a very considered rigour in construction and organisational configuration, gives the house a maturity and richness that defies its small size.

Monadnock

Source: Stijn Bollaert

The house occupies a site in Philips’ former woodland estate

Monadnock

Site plan


Project team

Client Confidential
Architect Monadnock
Structural engineer Bolwerk Weekers
Contractor Woonveste Bouw

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