The functional style is a strong element in the Dutch residential architecture. A large part of it is indeed practicality. So, from the perspective of the contractor it makes perfect sense to have a limited number of products. It simplifies the task of giving a price estimation, it makes construction faster and eases the life of the building team.
The more the contractors use this approach, the more the clients assume that those are the only available/possible options and decrease their number of demands. However, clients not requesting other options does not exempt architects from the responsibility of providing the best possible architecture.*
One of my architectural “ponderings”** is in regard to the dark, enclosed, rather depressing bathrooms of the modern day apartment. Excepting the situations when there is literally no other option, I never understood why I should give up the pleasure of an aired bathroom, bathed in sun light and fresh air, just for the ease of the contractor and construction team.
Most people today have a windowless bathroom. So the best way to relay this is to take a look at the pictures bellow. The spaces aren’t necessary big, however the presence of a window makes the space feel larger and warmer.
The typical reason for people fearing large windows in bathrooms is privacy. However, that can be easily fixed by a curtain (synthetic if there is worry about it getting wet), a window sticker or even the partial use of glass bricks.
The benefits are: better ventilation ➔ less chance of mold ➔ better air ➔ a nicer space ➔ a happier apartment ➔ happier residents ➔ better quality of life ➔ better productivity ➔ better economy.
The apartment that stirred the waters can be seen bellow. I can thoroughly understand that with such a number of windows one would want to use them to the maximum potential, however, due to such an abundance of windows, there are many more options available.
This is an apartment of 151 m² with a 19 m² terrace. The construction of the building has been finalized in the year 2001. The space provides a great canvas as it has windows on 3 of its sides. It has a large surface and a shape that allows for easy design. On the other hand the location of the terrace so far away from the entrance and rather isolated can be slightly tricky to maximize.
Issues that I personally have with this design are:
• Despite having such a beautiful size and plenty of space to play with, the two secondary bedrooms are incredibly small. They are approximately 7 m². Out of these, 2 m² are lost with the surface of the bed and 1 m² with the space used by the door for its movement. That leaves an usable surface of about 4 m². For an apartment of 151 m² that is terribly depressing and really cheap. Let’s be real, why is a 75 m² living room even necessary in these conditions?
• The bathroom has been sacrificed and despite the large number of windows available has once again been left in the dark.
• The placement of the storage with access from the living room means that in the unfortunate case one would need to use the laundry machine or the storage space while having guests they would be previewed to personal information or unwanted noise.
• The entry way is merged with the personal space of the house as the bedrooms and the bathroom directly relate to it. This deprives the personal space of the house of a lot of its privacy.
• I was lucky to have a great first teacher in the world of architecture. Some of the fondest memories I have, are of him explaining interior layouts with fun realistic examples. So imagine that you come home with heavy bags and potentially leaky items. Do you truly want to have to cross half of the house by going through loops and hoops in order to get to the kitchen?
• Due to its relation with the kitchen and the hallway, the living room gets divided into spaces that can easily make it unusable as an unity. It will most likely get fragmented into smaller spaces lacking cohesion. In my opinion such a fragmentation would require an even larger apartment.
• The storage is located in the core area of the apartment. It practically owns the best piece “of real estate”. What is so special about it to have been placed there? What makes it such an interesting and defining piece for it to have such an important placement? How does it increase the value of the living space? How does it increase the quality of life in the apartment? Or…was it placed there as an after thought?
* Note: The arguments that “this is the economy we are living in” or “this is how it is done” are indicative of resignation. The only way we can evolve is to constantly reevaluate present time use and improve based on use and necessity.
** I know, I know, not a real word. Just love the way it fits with the context.