Here, life revolves around a partly submerged garden. In this project signed by the Compagnie-O architectural firm, interior and exterior are one.
Le architectural office Compagnie-O hardly ever designs private homes. “When we accept this type of order, we have to be able to achieve something really special”, explains architect and co-founder Francis Catteeuw. Mission accomplished with this S-shaped mansion in Destelbergen, which winds through a marsh.
What is the experience of the owners of this house?
Francis Catteeuw: “It’s a very nice house, tell us its owners, a young couple with children. They wanted a place that perfectly suited their lifestyle. They both work a lot, but when they are at home, they want to live fully as a family. This is why we designed the house as a horizontal playground, without stairs or floors, punctuated with spaces that merge into each other and many possibilities for circulation. “
“Inside as well as outside, we can travel great distances without ever having the feeling of being far from each other. Living here is a social exercise of looks and perspectives, of encounters and passages, of distances and stakes. “
With its covered terraces, walkways and Japanese-style jetties, the house looks like a habitable garden.
“The owners wanted to have close contact with the outdoors. But, due to the location near the lakes around Ghent, we had to take into account the high groundwater level. Some parts of the garden are particularly under water all around. year, which gives a marsh winding around and under the terrace and varying according to the water level of the stream, at the back. Stones and tall grass define the enclosed patio, between the living area and the carport . In addition, each space offers a different view. With the terraces and walkways that make the link, the border between interior and exterior blurs. “
How is the house arranged?
“On the street side, pollard willows form a row of guardians. The house itself is designed in the shape of a large S. There are hardly any doors and, yet, the acoustics are pleasant, as there are so many nooks and crannies. There is enough privacy too, despite the opening. When children play in their rooms, you can’t see them, but you can hear them. “
“Thus, they are still involved in family life. This social stratification can be adapted according to the evolution of the family. For example, the garage is designed in such a way that it can eventually become a “man cave” for children: it can accommodate a snooker and ping-pong table and can even be extended. The parents also have their refuge, completely separate from the house and fitted out in the style of a friendly boudoir with a view of the aquatic garden. “
Company-O hardly designs private dwellings, rather public commissions, like the bright yellow first aid pavilion on the beach in Knokke-Heist. Why did you accept this assignment?
“We mainly carry out projects that have a social role, for which we study the possibilities of the program, the context and the social climate. This is also the case for this house.” What limits have you explored here? “How to involve the environment as much as possible? How to maximize the area of contact with the outside?”
“Our answer to these questions was to create an S-shaped house. With this slalom, the sun comes in differently throughout the day. The house is open on almost all sides so that at all times a different part is exposed. The project is also an exercise in managing intimacy in a world where there are fewer and fewer borders. Openness to the other is essential to live together, but this openness also requires clear boundaries.
There is nothing easier than drawing a closed gate and a hedge several meters high around a house, but it suggests distance rather than participation. Hence the cathedral glass carport: you can’t look through it, but you can see that people live here. The reception of visitors is part of a scenography that is gradually being built: we start by walking along the carport before going through a small door and taking the covered passage leading to the entrance. By the time we got there, we opened. “
This S-shape makes the house anything but compact. Is building such a spacious house still relevant?
“The prevailing morality takes a dim view of living in such a vast space. Compactness is an important criterion for an energy-efficient construction, which we do not consider a priori to be an absolute condition.”
“Thanks to the integration of geothermal energy, natural ventilation and solar blinds, this house is particularly energy efficient. The debate on the energy efficiency of buildings is today colored by the fear of losing energy. energy through cracks and interstices, but also the fear of losing one’s identity due to the pressure to live together in a more compact way. Fear is not a good state of mind. As an agency, we are looking for solutions that push the boundaries. In this way, we learn where the balance is, no matter how unstable it is. ”