Congestion has occured, that’s right, everything’s all full and stuck. The front facade –a nice ‘early 20th century working class-facade’ with yellow brick- doesn’t quite give it away, but behind the historic townhouse the uncurbed Flemish longing for building reaches an apotheosis: extensions, facades in front of windows, narrow stone courtyards, doors, steps and corners, a complete backhouse and even a real greenhouse-bridge. The site is dense, fully built up, full of stone. Horror Vacui? Especially the primairy backhouse is problematic: worn down, of questionable spacial quality and even more it creates an organizational problem: despite the large volume, big in between spaces are hard to use; at the same time important spaces –kitchen, bathroom, guesttoilet- are distorted and small, awkwardly placed. Full of dormant quality the gagged site lays waiting for the slacking the ropes.

Building again, but differently. Less volume and less stone, allowing more life, light, openness. The designs enfolds to the insides, it settles against and in the existing house, makes sure every square meter counts, every build square meter has to defend itself, has to prove itself worthy. Zero Tolerance. The design is dense again, but differently and therefore causes the exact opposite.

The existing extension disappears with greenhouse-bridge. The backhouse father down the site remains. A generous city-garden arises, light enters the house unobstructed. Against the back facade of the laborer-house: a thin –as thin as possible- strip of building two stories high. It branches off existing openings in the facade and sometimes slips in. On the ground floor it creates an extension of the living room, with a kitchen, breakfast table, space for kids playing, a bookshelf. A glass curtain wall looks over the newly created garden. The ceiling jumps in levels, normally high in the kitchen, luxuriously high at the living space. You can see the bearing beams. A window’s taken out, a door is masoned half up, another door remains, to the hallway and cellar, practically close. Halfway up the stairs is another door, behind the master bedroom. Here the floor shifts in levels, low for storing and writing, high for sleeping and sexing. Again the glass curtain wall and the wooden beams. A double door gives access to the bathroom and (guest)toilet; used to be a bedroom. The extension is a bit lower than the current window, a skylight brings sunshine and air into the space, accompanied by the sound of children playing in the garden.

Renovation of extension of single family dwelling

Wooden construction with glass curtain wall

Mortsel, Antwerp

Not executed

current situation  

ground floor & first floor  

cross section  

rear facade