This so called do-it-yourself dwelling in the centre of Rotterdam is part of a bold experiment initiated by the municipality to revitalize dilapidated urban areas. Run-down pre-war dwellings are renovated on the outside and brought back to their monumental appearance, while the interiors are stripped bare. The empty shell dwellings are primarily bought by enthusiastic young people who transform them according to their specific needs, desires and budgets. Real estate developers have picked up the initiative and a new demand driven market of urban housing has been generated in recent years. The result is a growing number of contemporary custom-made dream houses within the uniform old fabric of the traditional nineteenth and early twentieth century city.
Our dream was to create a vertical loft: a house without walls where all three floors are stitched together into one continuous space. The interior of the new house is organized by one oversized closet that connects all floors. It functions as a storage device for the whole house. This piece of XXL-furniture, measuring 10 meters in length and 9 meters in height, replaces the load bearing middle wall of the original house. Its modular system integrates kitchen appliances, bookshelves, wardrobe, and a walk in closet. The introduction of a central void reinforces the presence of the closet. The void enables diagonal views through the house in which the closet is experienced in its full height. It also makes daylight penetrate far into the 14 meter deep house. Two steel stairs in the void make the bookshelves accessible and create a vertical circulation along and through the closet.
The extreme makeover of the house is combined with a selective preservation of elements of the old casco. Industrial materials such as the phenol coated multiplex of the closet and the polyurethane flooring are balanced by the longitudinal brick wall that is left bare, the stained glass and the original doors that are restored and re-used. The roughness of the wall, full with traces of the past, tells stories about the continuous makeovers that the house has undergone in the last hundred years.