Borneo Houses

Borneo Houses, Amsterdam - Netherlands, MVRDV
Construction year: 2000
Address: Scheepstimmermanstraat 26 and 40 | AMSTERDAM | Netherlands
Latitude/Longitude: 52.3721, 4.94808

In Borneo-Sporenburg Amsterdam  – the most compact new housing district in The Netherlands – two dwellings have been designed that aim for the greatest possible spaciousness and versatility within a limited envelope.

The Borneo Sporenburg area is in the east of Amsterdam City. It s a former harbour area. The harbor moved to the west, in the direction of the sea. Adriaan Geuze of West 8 Landscape Architects tried to develop the Borneo Sporenburg area into a kind of old fashioned neighbourhood like De Jordaan in the west part of the Amsterdam inner-city. The 60 terraced houses on Borneo refer of course to the Amsterdam Canal houses.

Most of the Borneo Sporenburg area is build by project developers and housing corporations. The 60 terraced houses are not build speculative but by their owners. The party walls are all solved at the individual plots. Each house has to stand on it’s own feet. The gap (6 cm width) between two houses had to be closed in co-operation between the adjacent architect. MVRDV designed two of the homes for two different clients, plot 12 and plot 18.

The design of the 60 terraced houses was strictly supervised by Adriaan Geuze. He determined some materials and the exact height of the houses. In case of Borneo plot 18, the owners were obligated to make a 4-meter deep garden on the  waterfront to create a varied backside. Some exceptions are allowed.

Borneo Plot 12
On Borneo plot 12 a private experiment has been designed to fit the allocated width of 5 metres and depth of 16 metres. Because of the narrow plot and the fact that only half of the width is being used, the outcome was a private alleyway and the narrowest house imaginable: only 2.5 metres wide.

The method of dividing land into strips used in West 8s original plan is realised here in its most extreme form. The full length and height of the half that has been built along the alley has a glass facade, while the front and back have been left entirely closed. This open facade turns the house to face the alley.

The strip consists of a composition of extremely varied spaces. Interior and exterior spaces are all one: an extremely narrow house becomes an extremely wide house. The alley accommodates three elements: a block for storage whose roof slopes up from the street and provides a place to park; and two closed volumes, one block for a guest room and bathroom and one block that provides extra width locally to the two studios on the first and second floor. The last two volumes are hung on the glass façade, shutting in the exterior space and livening up the alleyway. It is lit by outdoor lighting that also allows the interior to be provided with any desired level of illumination. The use of electric lights inside is avoided.

Borneo plot 18
Plot 18 is called a garden plot: 4.2 x 16 meter, with a 4.0 meter deep garden on the water. In principle only three floors are possible within the 9.5 metre high envelope allocated, one high floor at street level and two lower floors above it. Despite this, the plan achieves four floors while at the same time the ceiling height over much of the building is higher than normal. By “sliding out” one of the four floors at the rear facing the water, a special spacious long cross-section is created with two “closed” elements: a garage come storage space on the street and protruding bathroom and bedroom block on the second floor. The irregular space remaining houses the kitchen-diner, sitting room and study, all spatially connected to one another. A series of rooms have been created differing in height and degree of privacy. Each are connected with the exterior in their own individual way, ranging from a two-storey veranda facing the water, to a balcony with French windows to the living room, a glass bay window to the bedroom and a roof garden to the studio in the “attic”.

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