Until the Second World War, inter-generational living was a common phenomenon in The Netherlands. With the advent of the Welfare State in the 60s and 70s, it became possible and common for families to split up geographically. The changing political and economic times now require Western societies to reconsider this situation. With this in mind, BETA office for architecture and the city designed a multi-unit private housing in which three generations could live.
Ph. Ossip van Duivenbode
The building is inhabited by a young couple, their children, and the grandparents. The goal of the project was to create a building where both families could enjoy each other’s company without sacrificing the advantages of private family life. The two separate apartments are stacked on top of each other and are connected by a communal entrance.
A concept was devised that would allow the building to accommodate changing spatial demands over time. The bottom apartment has an office and connects directly to the garden, making it ideal for a working family with young children. The elderly couple occupies the top apartment with generous views across the cityscape. This apartment has an elevator, level floors, and wider door openings in order to accommodate wheelchairs. While it does not resemble an elderly home, all necessary preparations have been made for reduced physical ability.
Instead of reducing the vertical circulation to a mere necessity, it occupies the heart of the building. Omnipresent as a sculptural element in the lower apartment, the staircase gradually transforms into a series of voids higher up in the building. By placing the vertical access system in the middle of the floorplan, the building is divided into “fore” and “aft.” Either side of the floorplan can be connected to one of two staircases to create a different configuration.
The building has been engineered to facilitate the transfer of space on the second floor to the lower floor. Initially used as a space for guests in the upper apartment, the space can easily be added to the lower apartment through a few minor adjustments. The position of the double-helix staircase makes it possible to stretch the inter-generational living concept further as two studio apartments could be made on the North façade to allow the younger family’s children to live in the building past their adolescence.
The gradient in the building’s plan is emphasized in the contrasting façades. The Northern façade is mostly closed to reduce thermal loss and reduce sound exposure along the busy street. Towards the South, it opens up completely, maximizing passive solar gain and a connection with the outdoors. In between the two contrary façades, the building undergoes a gradual transformation: it is compartmentalized in the North and has an open-plan with free-form elements towards the South. The building is finished with an informal, filter-like balcony layer.
Ph. Ossip van Duivenbode
The building communicates its composition and the materials communicate their purpose. The Southern façade is clad with large triple glazing window frames to underline the building’s relationship with the outdoors. The remaining structural walls are composed of large-format concrete masonry and wrapped in high-grade thermal insulation. Between these walls, bare concrete slabs span the full eight meters and offer a clear plane in which warmer timber elements define spatial moments. Closed and bare towards the North, light and fragile towards the South, the building is a composition of contrasts.
DATE: 2018 / LOCATION: Amsterdam, Netherlands / AREA: 3.000 sqft (built) / PROGRAM: multi-unit private housing / STATUS: built / DESIGN: BETA office for architecture and the city / PHOTOS: Ossip van Duivenbode