WIJGMAAL – Open Y Office recently completed House Gepo in Wijgmaal, Belgium.
To get around the restriction of a long, narrow site and allow enough space to pass from the front to the back yard, House Gepo is sited on the edge of its plot. In plan, the house appears space deprived and split from the neighbouring building only by a perimeter wall. It’s a bit ironic then, that the house was conceived as ‘a place without boundaries’.
Materials serve to divide the space into private and public areas. The communal ground floor is glass-clad, while the private first floor has concrete walls. Wood detailing for window and door frames softens the industrial palette of steel, concrete and glass, and integrates House Gepo more fully into its unkempt garden. The organic forms of the overgrown plants help soften the orthogonal lines and man-made materials of the house, giving it a cosier feel while also reflecting the laidback lifestyle of its inhabitants.
A pond literally reflects the orthogonal lines of the house in its rectangular form. The hard lines of the pond are softened by the grass that grows directly next to the water, which complements the rough-around-the-edges style of the house. ‘Every room in this house is connected’ say the architects. With all the doors open, the garden and reflection pool become part of the living space.
An I-beam column in the middle of the living area supports – and appears to split – two bookshelves. The composition introduces a sculptural element to the room that mimics the form of the telegraph pole visible from the street as well as the branching structure of the trees in the garden.
This ‘split and support’ concept is carried out throughout the house: the kitchen island is suspended and held up by another I-beam while the wooden box that encloses the bathroom and storage is split by the glass box of the house, which it appears to bolster.
That so much of the interior décor is placed around and supported by the I-beams emphasises the column grid structure of the house, which makes an open plan possible.
According to its architects ‘there is no need for ornament’ in House Gepo and most of the elements that beautify the space are functional in some way. The house was a low budget project that achieved rustic elegance by adopting a purist approach to material and form and creating a home with everything necessary for contemporary living and nothing more.
Photos courtesy of Tom Janssens