Friday25 July 2014

Maccreanor Lavington’s Ceres apartments

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The brown brick of these Netherlands canalside apartment blocks provides a continuity with the industrial buildings they have replaced

Project Ceres apartments
Architect Maccreanor Lavington
Location Beekpoort, Weert, the Netherlands
Completed January 2010

Brick apartment blocks now line the strip of land on the south side of Zuid-Willemsvaart (South Willem’s canal) in Weert, a small Dutch town near the Belgian border just north of Maastricht.

The north of the town was once dominated by tall brick buildings, mainly agricultural silos for storing grain. In 1999 a masterplan was drawn up by Rotterdam-based KCAP Architects – updated in 2003 by Antwerp-based AWG Architects – which proposed replacing most of these buildings with apartments using a similar family of brick.

The masterplan is gradually being implemented and the most recent scheme to be built is Maccreanor Lavington Architects’ €8.3 million (£7.2 million) project for 74 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The Ceres apartments comprise two main blocks (1a and 1b) separated by a 10m-wide open entrance area and communal garden that is gated at either end.

Car parking – 92 spaces in total – is provided beneath the buildings.

Block 1a, containing flats for the private rental market, is an imposing eight-storey building which fronts on to the canal and drops down behind to a two-storey element. Block 1b, containing flats for private sale, is a four-storey building fronting on to the canal and rises to six-storeys behind. The change in levels provides a varied mix of apartment plans and a distinctive massing.

For the main structure of the buildings, the architect has used a system of prefabricated concrete panels produced by Dutch company Alvon, which is a fairly common method of construction in the Netherlands.

The structure was then clad with a dark brown semi-engineered brick, manually laid.

The elevations are perforated with anodised aluminium framed double-glazed windows and doors. Perforated steel panels are fixed either vertically and used as sliding screens over the windows or horizontally, as safety screens to the balconies.

Perforated Steel Panels


Facade elevation

The vertically fixed 1m x 2.5m perforated steel screens can be manually pulled across the front of the windows to provide both privacy and shading, while horizontally fixed screens provide a decorative safety screen to the balconies.

Larger perforated steel panels (2.5m x 1m) have also been used on one side of the projecting balconies and are held together by a metal frame. The 2.5m-deep balconies are fixed to the elevations of the blocks that face on to the central entrance.

Steel was chosen over glass for privacy reasons – the buildings are very close together – and because solid panels, such as brick or unperforated steel, would have looked too dull. To keep costs down, the architects chose to perforate the steel with a mechanised hole-punch rather than laser cutting.

“Because a hole-punch method is not as clear as laser-cutting we chose a flower pattern that was easily recognisable and bold,” says Gerard Maccreanor.

The smaller vertical panels sit on a standard exterior sliding door mechanism fixed to a powder-coated steel lintel and sill to match the anodised aluminium framed windows. The horizontal panels are fixed back to the door frames.


Brick facade

North facade

North facade

Maccreanor Lavington specified a dark brown standard Dutch 24 x 4 x 9cm brick for the apartment block elevations as a reference to the brick used for the agricultural buildings previously on the site.

The brickwork on the elevations comprises three main treatments: 49cm-wide vertical brick piers located between the windows and doors and on the corner sections, laid using a stretcher bond; a 450mm recessed element to one side of the windows behind the perforated steel screens, which allows the screen to park neatly into the recess when in an “open” position, while providing an interesting effect on the facade when the screens are closed over the windows; and the brickwork under the windows and doors and for the lintels, which has been laid vertically or stack bonded to hide any unsightly movement joints in the brickwork.

West facade of Ceres apartments

West facade to courtyard, block 1b

“To increase the material quality of buildings and to make buildings more tectonic requires a lot of effort,” says Gerard Maccreanor.

In an effort to maintain an uncluttered appearance, external vents have been directed to the roof, while rainwater pipes are located inside the buildings, keeping the facade clear.

There was a lot of discussion as to whether the vertical elements of brickwork should be prefabricated or laid manually. The architects were surprised and pleased when the contractor said it would be cheaper to lay the bricks manually (a more common process in the Netherlands).

A dark grey cement mortar was used. The joint is a 3mm recess and anthracite coloured pointing was used to finish.
The U-value of the walls is 0.285W/m2K.

Facade detail section

Facade detail section

Architect Maccreanor Lavington, Client 3W Vastgoed, Contractor Smeets Bouwbedrijf, Structural engineer Goudstikker – de Vries, Services engineer Huisman & van Muijen, Brick supplier Desta, Concrete structure Alvon Heembeton, Perforated steel panel Ruitenbeek Konstrukties



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