From the street, MVRDV‘s Casa Kwantes appears as a boxy volume, punctuated only by a garage, entryway and a solitary window. Enter the backyard, however, and the house becomes a very different story: ultra curvaceous and almost entirely glazed.
The recently completed project is located in Schiedam, a Netherlandish city just west of Rotterdam, on the site of an old hospital. Municipal regulations require that new builds be in keeping with the traditional, rectangular forms that dominate the neighbourhood, so MVRDV had to tread carefully in order to deliver the sort of home their clients sought, one that prioritized open spaces and maximized sunlight.
“Casa Kwantes is really a villa of contrasts with its long, cream, shallow brickwork, full-height glazing, and the contrasting integration of the flat and fluid, open and enclosed, flexible and defined,” says Jacob van Rijs, co-founder of MVRDV. “You can say it’s a balance really between municipality requirements for a nostalgic style of architecture, and a client’s wish for a villa that then became a contemporary take on 1930s modernism.”
The street-facing walls of the house are comprised of a simple, off-white brick. A curved indent, above which features a window with Celosia brickwork detail, ushers visitors inside, where the narrative changes, opening up into a series of undulating and light-filled spaces.
Curved glass follows the length of the home on both the first and second levels. It wraps around a courtyard containing an olive tree, the focal point of the yard – “a nod to the owner’s Dutch-Greek heritage,” van Rijs explains. This sweeping facade is his favourite feature. “The house is just so light and at different times of the day, all sorts of reflections and contrasts are experienced,” he says.
The first floor contains the kitchen, living room and library. A wood closet running the length of the living space hides a bathroom, kitchen pantry and basement entrance. Rooms on the upper level – a master suite, and two additional bedrooms on either end of the home – open onto a cantilevered balcony that wraps around the glass and looks down onto the courtyard below. The slight cantilever provides shade to living spaces below, countering heat gain produced by the glazing.
The new house by MVRDV has the potential to become self-sufficient, thanks to a ground-source heat pump, a heat exchange system and a solar-panelled roof. “The solar panels compensate for energy lost from the house’s glazing, producing enough energy for it to run entirely on electricity,” van Rijs says. “Even though the living spaces absorb the most sunlight, in summer months, they have sun shading due to their floors cantilevering out slightly.”