Housegarden

Renovation and extension of a historic villa which mainly pursues garden-design as programmatic support of the villa.


Like a lighthouse, or a look-out, the historic villa is positioned on the corner of the street, surrounded by the associated garden and the garden of the king of the country. Artist painter Xavier Mellery commissioned the villa 120 years ago as his place of living and working. An additional studio-volume has since been demolished, but the house itself has been mainly untampered with. The inhabitants are happy with the villa and the garden. They live on the first floor, above the street noise and in between the trees. In the summer a summer-kitchen on the ground floor is used in proximity to the garden. However some programmatic and technical issues will have to be developed to organize life. Apart from a cabin in the garden -as a nature-centered retreat- the rest of the program is mainly service spaces: stockade, guest-toilet, a place for parking cars.

The architects are also happy with the villa and the garden. It’s been decided to consider the extension of the villa not as an architecture design, but rather a garden-design. The garden is being activated, so the house can take off some of the load. Three proposals for garden-designs offer solutions: the slope, the garden wall and the garden shed.

It’s the opinion of the slope that the house is already big enough. All of the program is being devised in the underused basement, the place where also most of the technical problems arise. Even the two cars find their way into the existing basement. They enter the grounds and slowly sink away between the tall grass. No new building is being constructed.

It’s the opinion of the garden wall that the house is already important enough. All of the program is being devised in a doubled garden wall, which at the same time offers a new reading for the least attractive garden wall. Behind the garden wall functional spaces align themselves along a logical enfilade. The little daylight necessary in those kind of service spaces is organized in skylights in the green roof. The building camouflages itself like an octopus on coral reef. An invisible building is being constructed.

It’s the opinion of the garden shed that the house is already serious enough. All of the program is being devised in twin garden sheds: abstract wooden volumes with no apparent windows, doors or other details. The primordial shape of the sheds has meaning in the organization of functions and the mellowing out of the impact of their existence.

A housegarden which frames and supports the historic villa. The design manifests itself in wood, garden wall pilasters on which the descending sun emphasizes the masonry joints, grey long grass. The design manifests itself in the swaying of trees and the creaking sound of a swing.

Laken, Brussels
Project under construction

The slope  

The slope  

The garden wall  

The garden wall  

The garden shed  

The garden shed  

Plans showing building evolution  

Historical function analyses