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Friday, March 25, 2011

All along the water tower: A nine-story Dutch design challenge


Matt Hickman

Zecc Architects transforms a decommisioned, mid-century water tower outside the Dutch city of Utrecht into a beautiful, vertigo-inducing private residence.

In “All along the water tower,” my irregular series of posts featuring derelict water towers converted into unique, stair-heavy residences — yes, there are enough out there to make a series of it — I’ve examined several fine specimens from Australia, France, and, most recently, Germany. Today, a water tower home from a country that’s very dear to me, the Netherlands, is up to bat.
Located in Soest in the Dutch province of Utrecht, this nine-story, mid-century (1931, to be exact) water tower home is a unique feat of adaptive reuse. As you can see from the photos, Zecc Architecten — a Utrecht-based architecture firm with a most ironic moto in this instance: "grounded architecture"— did a bang-up job on the conversion. Not surpringly, Zecc has taken on other re-use/cultural heritage projects in the region including church and factory conversions.
The most notable aspect of this particular project is the three-story wall of windows installed to allow light into the interior of the formerly dank, dark structure. The stark, minimalist interior pays homage to the structure’s industrial past although it’s a touch too sparse for my tastes. I think that the series of stacked rooms could do with some art on the walls, shelves full of tchotchkes, or a vase of tulips here and there.
Essentially, there’s a room on each circular floor and the bathroom, smartly, is centrally located in the middle. On the floors below the bathroom are the living room, guest room, kids’ room, and on the entry level, a kitchen. On the upper floors on the structure are a home office, master bedroom, and a “rooftop” terrace. There’s also a small floor, more of a landing, really, with a sauna just above the bathroom. Lovely.
As with the other water tower conversion homes that I’ve featured, the inhabitants in this one must be the fittest folks on the block with all that daily climbing … to think I had it rough living in a fourth-floor walk-up building. And as evidenced in the below photo, scaling the exterior of the home of a rope also appears to be an option.


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