The Building

Privacy is guaranteed while the view is celebrated

Utrecht is dotted with special buildings, which you bike past regularly but know very little about. Such as the striking, small grey façade standing between the classic cream and white of the rows of houses on Van Asch van Wijckskade.

text: Martine Bakker
photography: Pam van der Veen

It just suddenly seemed to appear. A low building with a grey concrete façade, nestling between the elegantly rendered houses on Van Asch van Wijckskade. At first sight, the architecture appears somewhat crude, but a closer look at the details shows that a lot of thought has gone into the building: the patterning of the holes, the concrete-cast house number, the recessed glass wall on the first floor, the subtle, asymmetric kink in that wall, the smooth, sleek concrete. And in the alleyway on the other side: ornamental trelliswork, elongated, blunt, wooden door handles and here too, a few holes, smaller and in a different pattern. Even finding the right shade of grey was a serious challenge, says the owner.

This house has become a contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk, a harmonious object in itself, one in which everything has been carefully designed. The architect is one of the best: Rien Korteknie from the Rotterdam-based firm Korteknie Stuhlmacher. His designs for the interior are just as precise and loving as those for the façades. He consulted closely with the owners and the furniture maker, who built the stairs, the wall units (some featuring tiny seats) and the counter top in the kitchen. The angle of daylight alternates between subtle and excessive, and privacy is guaranteed while the view is celebrated.

Every inch of the space has been used, just like in a tiny house or a houseboat. Sliding doors make the rooms bigger if required. And the round holes also feature in the roof of the top floor and the rug by the front door. Corners have been rounded off (or not), and the steps on the staircase create a slightly more pronounced zigzag than strictly necessary. A thin, steel banister flows in an elegant curve along the stairs, via the counter top, into the trelliswork around the stairwell. Contrasting shapes, colours and materials create excitement and make this house a child of its time, as do the highly environmentally friendly principles of the entire building.

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