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Posted 12 May 2001


B[enedicte] G[rosjean], ‘One Architecture [NL]’, ArchiLab Orleans 2001. Edited by Marie-Ange Brayer and Beatrice Simonot, translated by Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods, Charles Penwarden, John Tittensor, Gammon Sharpley, Jutta Kuester, John O’Toole (Orleans: City of Orleans, Communication Department, Cultural Affairs Department, 2001), 180-181.

To fit into the desired model

Benedicte Grosjean

One Architecture was founded in 1994 in Amsterdam, with two members: Joost Meuwissen and Matthijs Bouw. Joost Meuwissen is a critic and theoretician, who also teaches in the city planning faculty at the University of Technology in Graz. In the 1970s, he played a very important part in introducing the Netherlands onto the international stage. Together with Matthijs Bouw, who hails from the younger generation, they form one of the currently most unpredictable and eccentric teams in the Netherlands. Their extension project for the house in Eindhoven illustrates this desire for subversion which was already present in the early and provocative conceptual works produced by Matthijs Bouw. By respecting the wishes of the clients and introducing references verging on mockery, their approach is akin to that of many contemporary artists, such as Jeff Koons, to which they readily admit, and Berend Strik, with whom they work on a regular basis.

“Fifteen years ago the client, who loves France, built a house for his family in the style of a French villa. Over the past decade-and-a-half, he acquired most of the land around the house in order to keep the view towards the surrounding nature reserve open. Last year he discovered that the relation between the now immense garden and the small-scaled villa needed redefini­tion. The somewhat closed villa was not in tune with the family's lifestyle, which centered on the garden. In a brochure of villa examples we put together for our client, ranging from Palladio to Ben van Berkel and OMA, only Mies' Farnsworth House met with his approval. In the subsequent design, we re­-Schinkeled Mies in order to achieve a simple increase in size. Loosely using classical design techniques, we made a royal extension of the house towards the garden. The anachronistic Mies is loaded with contemporary technical features. The classical stainless steel cornice, for instance, contains a five meter movable awning. a heating ­and anti-bug system for the terrace, and lighting fixtures, such that is reminis­cent of a car's front.”

One Architecture got straight to the facts, pragmatically adopting the approach taken by their clients, who had spent 15 years extending their garden. The agency proposed a catalogue of “dream villas” that apes all those glossy cocooning magazines full of ideal homes. Without hesitation, they fitted into the desired model. This project integrates the suburban landscape and its discontinuous individual plots, making it the point of departure instead of a stumbling block.
Still, an element of irony is apparent on the cover band. In passing, the “great masters” are subjected to the judgement of all and sundry. Conversely, suburbanism is treated as “pornography,” a place authorizing individualized lifestyles “outside formal rules, propriety and discipline.” If the final relation to the garden, the continuous glazed façade and the free, open plan all come from Mies, the stone base, the classicising cut of the steel cornice on the glazed facade and the continuity of materials from the base to the walls all take their inspiration from Schinkel. Other quotations are even more explicit. The sliding walls between the living room and the bedrooms are those of OMA's Linthorst house and the floor of the bathroom refers to the architecture of Lars Spuybroek. And yet all this is a long way from postmodernism. The col­lage is not an attempt to give the building meaning. Rather, it stems from the pragmatic use of tried and trusted solutions. The result is a meticulous, detailed and subtly provocative architectural space.

See the full project

Read the architect´s comment

Read the comment by Urs Primas


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