by Pooja Suresh HollannavarMay 09, 2023
'Transformation Watertower' by RVArchitecture, accredited as the winning project of the 2020 Dutch Watertowerprize, tries to revise the conventional living typology confined within the notions of a four-walled home, while accommodating families of cousins Sven and Lennart de Jong who wished to transform the tower into their homes. Assessed by the Dutch Water Tower Foundation (NWS), the four main criteria laid out for the re-development project included respecting the existing qualities, the added value of the re-use, and the functionality and sustainability of the re-designation. The water tower prize was specifically established to promote the quality re-use of the many water towers in the region by highlighting good examples, and this tower and its redesign by RVArchitecture became a much-lauded illustration of that vision.
Situated on an embankment outside Nieuw Lekkerland, a village in western Netherlands, the water tower boasts of impressive views, wherein one side of the tower looks out to the lek river while the other side overlooks the quintessential dutch landscape encompassing the many windmills of Kinderdijk. The tower stands as a distinctive landmark owing to the white colour and its position at the foot of the Lekdijk, marking the beginning of its built-up area on the east side of Nieuw-Lekkerland .
Constructed in 1915, the structure's ownership was transferred to the families of the two cousins in the year 2013, who then hoped to reinvent the tower, aligned with their thoughts and perspectives while operating on a frugal budget. The transformation involved revamping and replanning the available interior space of the existing 34-meter-high tower having a concrete hollow-bottom reservoir with a volume of 400 cubic meter. This sizeable structural assembly is placed on a concrete support frame with a closed hexagonal substructure. The project eventually came to be centred around two major concerns: the first being the configuration of the building to break the imagination of a stereotypical residence, while celebrating an unusual living in the inside of a water tower, and the second being the creation and placement of fenestrations on its six-faced surfaces without losing its original character.
Following extensive research and multiple findings, RVArchitecture, led by project architects Ruud Visser and Fumi Hoshino, concluded that the new openings were to "dance around" the existing diamond-shaped windows in order to conserve the central character of the tower. However the new windows were arranged in relation to their respective floor plans, and not on the basis of their earlier zigzag pattern which was earlier independent of any considerations to the inner volume of the water tank. Within a diameter of nine meters, the hexagonal tower had to accommodate housing for two small families, while also keeping a check on the local building regulations. The substructure of the tower originally had three floors, each over six metres high, and the new floors were laid between the existing floors, resulting in a total of six floors after renovation. The typical square windows were strategically placed just above or below the new floors while also considering the views offered, also manifesting in characteristic interior details for the two homes.
The first two floors comprise an entrance, storage area, living, dining, kitchen, and a double-height garden room, while walking up a pair of staircases through the tower opens to the upper dwelling, containing living spaces and kitchens, along with bedrooms. Owing to the windows being derivative of a "rotating layout", while one of the houses overlooks the river, the other offers a view towards the polder landscapes. These specific views have in turn been crucial in dictating the orientation of the floorplan to which the layout and construction have been completed. The design has thereby transformed the project in an impactful way to embrace living engagements and interactions for the owners of the water tower.
On the overall transformative process and approach carried by RVArchitecture, the Dutch Watertowerprize jury commented that “the basis of the successful transformation is formed by the powerful design of Ruud Visser and Fumi Hoshino. Huge floor-to-floor windows looking out over the river De Lek and the Dutch polder landscape contribute to the quality of the spaces inside and fit perfectly with the robust appearance of the water tower. It is refreshing to see that such an inspiring transformation can be realized with a small budget”.
Name: Transformation Watertower Nieuw Lekkerland
Location: Nieuw Lekkerland, Netherlands
Project architects: Ruud Visser and Fumi Hoshino
Area: 200 sqm
(Text by Nikitha Sunil, intern at STIRworld.com)