4 Houses To Bring The Light In

If you’ve been here before, you know that I am a major advocate of finding ways to bring the light in and people in to the outdoors as much as possible.
The way our present day society works, means we spend far too much time indoors. And while no one expects to radically be able to change things in a short amount of time, we can surely search and play with ways to improve present time conditions.

The Netherlands is a small country, with no space to waste. The Dutch weather is famous for being unpredictable and wet. But we do have to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and be grateful for having this year a fantastic summer. Might come as a surprise, but at some point these lands were actually quite familiar with snowy winters. Snow requires high sloped roofs, otherwise the sheer weight of it can be enough to create problems and in particular structural damage. This is the reason why architecture in mountain areas makes use of roofs with a slope of at least a 45 degree angle.

Though unnecessary anymore, the sloped roof is an integral part of the traditional architectural Dutch style so easily recognized all over the world. Modern Dutch architecture has attempted to stray from it, being only partially successful. Present day residential architecture seems to favor this shape and makes use of it in most house designs. Due to the high slope, the resulted space is most of the time used as storage. Nothing wrong with that, we could always do with a little bit more storage, particularly when it comes to a larger family. However, within the context of our society, that space might be put to a much better use. Why not turn it into a green house and become a secondary family room/garden? Sure, you’d lose the storage but you’d be gaining the possibility to spend much more time “outdoor” throughout the cold, wet, cloudy days.

It has been scientifically proven that even in the cloudiest day, if we were to spend the day outside, we would receive the minimum requirement of vitamin D. This is however not an option for most people. Traditional residential and office architecture together with job and technological requirements do not allow that. This is one of the reason why movements as Nature Desks and Rooftop Revolutions have been created.

As most endeavors do, there are pro’s and con’s. And in my opinion the biggest issues to solved, particularly in a city, is the issue of light pollution. Imagine a street with identical houses. All of them having large glass facades. Beautiful during the day with the light shining through and making the indoor much more appealing. Naturally when sunset comes, all of them turn their lights on. And night disappears.
A glass house in a rural setting with not have the same impact on the environment as full neighborhoods in a city. But technology is evolving, so we might be out of these wood faster that we think.

My proposal for how to better use this space, which can be easily applied to most flat roofs in order to maximize space, we are in the Netherlands where every meter counts, has been fully detailed here.


Now, let’s check other examples that have emphasized exactly what I have described above:


1. DILL ARCHITECTEN – The Netherlands

“What is good for a tomato is good for a human too!”

This residential construction can be found in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It was designed as a residence for two families. It is composed of an outer glass shell, interior open terraces and enclosed spaces. The usable surface is truly generous throughout most of the year and it becomes somewhat restrictive only for a few cold months. The environment is constantly controlled and the temperature is kept in check through sun shades and a system of air conditioning based on opening and closing the right widows at the right time.

References: 1 / 23 / 4 / 5 / 6


2. JYA-RCHITECTS – South Korea

I particularly love this example. It is an example of cheap housing, located in South Korea. It is designed with a more rural area in mind, however I find that it would be easily suited to a city environment. The concept of the house has the common space (inner courtyard) located in between the living area and the function block, leaving the bedrooms to the side as their usage requires less circulation.
Naturally we exists in tribes, large groups, communities if you will. However, the tribe was in time restricted to extended families and later to only direct families. “We are the first humans ever to try to disband our tribes! No one has ever done that before.” To me, this is the perfect example of how a small tribe works. We have the most light and the strongest connection with nature, in the common area where most activities occur.

References: 1 / 2 / 3


3. BENGT WARNE for Charles Sacilotto   –  Sweeden

“Living in a greenhouse gives architecture a fourth dimension, where time is represented by movements of naturally recycled endless flows of growth, sun, rain, wind, and soil in plants, energy, air, water, and earth.” 

This is the rural counterpart of the first house exemplified here. It is composed of a wooden house within a glass layer. The family chose the rural setting in order to focus on a more connected and sustainable life. The family explains every space, advantage and disadvantage in the video from references.
It is a fantastic example of what this simple set up can achieve. The challenge is to adapt it or parts of it to the city environment.

References: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / video


4. THE GREEN HOUSE EXPERIEMENT, by TU/Delft with Helly Scholten – The Netherlands

“Thunderstorms, rain, full moon: it is all equally spectacular. And you sleep better. Normally I really could not stand the cold and dark months of January and February. Then I felt very sad and somber. But here I really do not have any problems with this. “

This house was built under the tutelage of TU/Delft, the Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands. It was a 3 year experiment in the world of sustainability, which has ended on 31st of May 2018.
I love the fact that this is an experiment. It is a well known fact that children learn best through play, so why would it be any different for adults? I also love that as it emphasizes the need to see architecture as flexible, as something to play with and not just take as it is.

References: 1 / 2 / video    



Though this is not a house, but a restaurant, I am including it here for its design of the common spaces and the way the light was brought in.

References: 1 / 2 



Now, at this point yo might simply say that projects that use large surfaces of glass are more than common, so, why would this make things more special.
While the large window surfaces bring light in, they disrupt privacy. The windows are either “open” or “closed”. Open the curtains, and you allow transparency and light to come through. Close them and you lose that feature, but regain privacy. I personally find this type of window to turn the room into a entertainment box for the outside.
I used to regularly pass by a building in the center of Utrecht, which has two of the outer walls of the top two floors made of glass. It functioned precisely as a mosquito lamp. It was impossible not to stare at it. I personally found it incredibly odd to be aware of the fact that most of the people passing by can stare at how you entertain your guests.

The difference between a house with a glass wall of windows and a glass house is the fact that you’re not adding large windows to the private spaces, but you are extending them. You gain square meters and the glass house becomes much more of a garden that you can use all throughout the year. Those long days of rain, you know, the main topic of small talk in the Netherlands, no longer being a problem.

Know other interesting examples to the bill? Add them to the comments.

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