Sheep farming and fishing have long been replaced by tourism as a means of livelihood on Texel, a Dutch island in the Wadden Sea. What were once important ways of making a living subsist today between picturesque exploitation and subsidised preservation, like all other places where holiday-makers spell a stream of revenue for local coffers. It can thus be seen as a positive exception to the rule when a touristically motivated project takes a stance against this pseudo-idyll. The respective holiday home with ample windows and truncated hip roof by Benthem Crouwel Architects quotes local features without any attempt at ingratiation, offering a facade that reflects and laconically elevates the genius loci while providing multiple views onto the landscape.
Architect: Benthem Crouwel Architects, Amsterdam Location: Texel, The Netherlands
Many sheep barns – the so-called boeten typical of the Wadden Sea islands – are still to be found on Texel. Consisting of solitary small and practically windowless buildings in the open landscape, located far from the farms they belong to, they have a truncated hip roof with the slanting side facing southwest, the most common direction of the wind. The entrance, on the other hand, is situated on the flat, northeast side of the building, out of the wind.
Built in the timber framing approach and provided a partially hipped roof, the holiday home recalls local building traditions but couples them with contemporary standards. Floor-to-ceiling glazing on the ground floor and windows in the roof provide scenic views of the unspoilt landscape, merging inside and outside in contrast to the building type on which the holiday home is based. The combined kitchen and living room enables an outlook onto the open landscape, whereas the dunes and the sea are visible from the gallery, and the open sky can be seen from the bedroom.
The simple layout offers a living area, bedroom and sanitary facilities on the ground floor and work areas and additional places to sleep up on the gallery; storage rooms are situated in the basement. Interior finishes and details are plain and reticent in character and thus seem to direct attention to the landscape all the more.
The facades and roof merge seamlessly, forming a monolithic unit out of the timber frame structure covered in tar paper. Red, green and blue fishing nets are stretched over the outer surfaces, whereby the colours on the southeast and northwest sides reflect the interior spatial organisation of the house. Black netting forms a second layer over this colourful mesh and in conjunction with the tar paper lends cohesion to the individual areas of the facade.
Despite the simplicity of the construction means the architects have achieved a precise and functional building complete with cosy indoor spaces. Details, as seen in the interior tiling and the netting on the gallery balustrade, are consistent with the design concept. The netting motif presents itself as the keynote design theme, lending the building a down-to-earth and modest touch while integrating it into the landscape context in terms of colour and theme.
In view of the fact that the small holiday home takes its inspiration from the typology of the old sheep barns, the sure-handed way in which it expresses vernacular features is surprising – whether in terms of free interpretation or as a subtle sideswipe against romanticised stage set architecture.
Project dataGross floor area: 135 m² Completion: 2014 Project management: Mels Crouwel Project team: Mels Crouwel, Pia Hanhijärvi, Jos Wesselman, Volker Krenz