Inside the box, outside the box: Residence FSD bridges the gap in a Belgian forest

Designed by Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects in Brussels, the FSD residence attempts to adapt to its inclined terrain through sequentially placed cuboidal volumes.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Nov 28, 2020

The design of this private residence juxtaposes strict linearity against the natural, organic terrain of the site. At the same time, Residence FSD also seems to be consciously aiming to create an inverted oasis in the midst of the forest, fully harnessing the natural avenues and views that the site affords. Though cubist, the residence exudes austerity in form and material purity, adhering to its decidedly modernist, minimal aesthetic like gospel. It stands out, yet also blends in.

  • A single car surface parking at the primary entrance to the house | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    A single car surface parking at the primary entrance to the house Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • The concealed primary entrance to the FSD residence | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The concealed primary entrance to the FSD residence Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • The front elevation of the residence in concrete seen through the gently sloping access road | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The front elevation of the residence in concrete seen through the gently sloping access road Image: Tim Van De Velde

The footprint of the built mass of the house occupies north of 10% of the total site area. Principally constructed only in concrete, wood, and glass, the residence ‘reveals’ itself in two successive masses placed one on top of the other. Through a gently sloping access street, one enters the house through the intended primary entrance and a small car space on the right side of the concrete front façade, the highest point of the terrain. Down the road, a secondary path becomes accessible for cars leading to the -1 level housing the garage, composed in its façade of timber slats. This secondary volume is inset from the upper concrete block.

  • The secondary entrance to the house, lower level | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The secondary entrance to the house, lower level Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • The rear side of the house faces expansive natural views, is more open, and disconnected from the front | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The rear side of the house faces expansive natural views, is more open, and disconnected from the front Image: Tim Van De Velde

The division of spaces and their orientation, reminiscent of the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe, is particularly interesting. All the primary functions of the house reside on the upper level that offers a panoramic view of the landscape. This floor also houses the kitchen, dining and living areas, directly accessible following a closed foyer like space from the primary entrance itself, along with a partially separated private office and the master bedroom, bathroom and walk in wardrobe further along on the eastern side of the building. The master bathroom overlooks a tastefully closed patio that floods light inwards from the frontal northern side, while generous terraces on the opposite, southern side overlook the pool and outside spaces on the lower level, along with hosting equally stunning views of the natural panorama. A central wide staircase connects the two levels, while a thought has been spared for further provision of an elevator, independent access to, and segregation of the two levels.

  • AThe open space and pool area on the lower level | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The open space and pool area on the lower level Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • The FSD residence is located at the edge of a forest | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The FSD residence is located at the edge of a forest Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • The deck on the upper floor connected to the master bedroom | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    The deck on the upper floor connected to the master bedroom Image: Tim Van De Velde

Garages and numerous storage spaces that the designers term “night functions” are accommodated on the lower level, along with three additional bedrooms. The two categories of spaces, services and residential, are separated by a multipurpose room in the middle, with a dedicated space for pool facilities, a sauna, showers and open lounge located close by. Owing to the incremental nature of the terrain, the floor juts out from the upper terrace, and subsumes the form of another terrace itself, housing the swimming pool. The pool has a slightly reduced depth to allow the location of an aged tree nearby to remain the same.

  • Schematic roof plan of the house explaining access to the residence | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    Schematic roof plan of the house explaining access to the residence Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • Upper level floor plan | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    Upper level floor plan Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • Lower level floor plan | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    Lower level floor plan Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • Sections showcasing the slope of the terrain with respect to the built mass | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    Sections showcasing the slope of the terrain with respect to the built mass Image: Tim Van De Velde
  • FSD residence elevations | Residence FSD | Govaert and Vanhoutte Architects | STIRworld
    FSD residence elevations Image: Tim Van De Velde

Owing to the south-oriented, rear looking nature of all the habitable spaces of the house, both levels are essentially closed off from the street as well as the neighbours, with only a bare concrete façade visible on the front. Concrete canopies, carrying the terraces, shelter all bedrooms for a more intimate setting, while providing shade against the sun. The higher altitude of the sun and full trees allow for a filtered, textured light to flood the interiors, while the lower solar altitude in winters along with the shed foliage allows uninhibited warm light into all the living spaces of the house.

Project Details

Project Name: Residence FSD
Location: Brussels
Architects: Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects  
Principal Architects: Damiaan Vanhoutte & Benny Govaert
Structural Engineering: Cobe Engineering
Contractor: Christiaens Bouw
Site Area: 4921m²
Ground Floor Area: 617m²
Basement Area: 331m²
First Floor Area: 307m²
Total Floor Area: 638m²
Building Area: 535m²

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