-Re House

“-Re” House no. 32 – Variation for the Sake of Variation

“-Re” House together with “-Re” Adapt are two series part of a project in which I review, refine and redesign residential projects available on the Dutch housing market. “-Re” House touches projects that have been completed after the year 2000 and could have been done more efficiently to begin with, while “-Re” Adapt looks at how to better adapt older residential architecture that was designed in a different cultural and historical context. 

I have previously talked about the issue of variation for the sake of variation, quite a while ago at the beginnings of Archi-Re.
Unfortunately not that much has changed. There are still plenty of examples, particularly in large scale endeavors such as blocks of flats of large areas of houses, that showcase this desire to check the box of “available variety”.

Original layout:
•  Completed: 2005
Surface: 109m²
The two apartment above can be found in the same block of flats completed in the year 2005. The construction, despite its young age, has plenty of design issues. We will however focus now only on these two.
• The apartment on the left has a clear path and an efficient division of spaces. Due to its connection purpose and intense traffic, a corridor is a highly valuable space in an apartment. However, when analysed from an usability point of view it is a dead space. Thus, keeping it to a minimum allows for a far more efficient use of the rest of the space. Next to that, a location in the center of the layout provides a clear and easy distribution of functions.
• The apartment on the right has an almost double amount of corridor space, thus a higher percentage of “dead space” as it is not wide enough to place any type of furniture. The kitchen space is crowded compared to the other apartment. The living room is smaller due to the increase in circulation corridors that are created by trying to reach the rest of the spaces. This is not an issue in the other apartment as the living space (+kitchen) has only one access point.
Though technically not wrong, the flow of the space through the bathroom and bedrooms makes me cringe. The second door from the small bedroom shortens what otherwise would have been a long trip to reach the bathroom but also decreases the available space for furniture.

The very first time I saw this floor plan I could not help but picture somebody in the early hours of the night (3-4 AM) running (while holding on to their pants) from the master bedroom through the living room (stepping on toys while trying to be awake enough not to hit the walls) to get all the way to the other side of the house to the toilet.

Technically there is no issue here. Both apartments function (some in weird ways), both can house people and provide decent lives. True, it is a first world problem, but should we do something just for the sake of checking a box? Even if that means providing variety at the expense of quality?

New layout:

If previously I only talked about the issue. This time however, I decided to try my hand at creating a more efficient design.
I honestly don’t like the lateral access, however in order to prove once more my point that it is not a matter of money  but a matter of attention and professional involvement, I decided to keep the facades and the location of the vertical technical line and play around them.

•  I created a private area for the bedrooms, from where the bathroom, laundry and toilet can be easily reached without disturbing any other room or crossing through the living room.
•  I have, indeed, sacrificed some of the kitchen surface (left plenty of it though) in order to allow an easier flow and distinction between the kitchen and the living room.  I have placed the kitchen closer to the entrance as that is where more traffic will take place.
•  By moving the sitting area at the end of the path, after the kitchen, I have brought back the feeling of rest and relaxation that was lost in the original layout due the many circulation paths.

As usual, this is one possible layout. There are may possibilities out there depending on the number of people, age, jobs, hobbies and personal traits. However, even those can not justify a bad layout.

As a final addition, I have made a few modifications to the apartment of the left as well. It may have been the better of the two to begin with, but there were still some elements that could have been improved.

•  I have changed the layout of the kitchen by removing the divider wall (1.5m height) and changing the sink area into a much friendlier kitchen island. This type of design might have been all the rage in the 70’s, however now, it is only a sign of a bad design. It does not work half way. Either go all the way and make it open or properly divide the two spaces.
•  Lastly, the positioning of the two doors in the hallway, the bathroom door and the laundry door, it is truly unfortunate. The bumping dance is an actual struggle that could have been so easily avoided.
I did initially think of opening the bathroom door the other way around to make it even more elegant, however the connection between the toilet space and the bathroom is a much stronger one than the one between the laundry and the bathroom.

Click here for more “-Re” House projects
Click here for more “-Re” Adapt projects

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