Our goal for the design of the Steel Study House seems to be contra dictionary: we want to develop a house which is based on 80 % prefab components and at the same time producing a personal character. In other words: the house should take away the prejudice that prefab steel houses are always clean cookie-cutter structures built up with cheap chilly materials. The house is located in the new suburb Noordhoven in Zoetermeer. This neighbourhood contains free building plots to develop private houses. As usual in Holland these plots are too small, so the houses in this neighbourhood are piling up. The urban design of these sites includes a lot of building and zoning regulations, which together dictate the maximum volume that is permitted. The architectural design of the house is the minimal interpretation of these regulations, as pure as possible, to get the maximum volume build.
The basic volume is the result of two simple transformations: 1 – split a rectangular volume in two volumes, 2 pull each of the two volumes in an opposite direction. This results into an enormous cantilever at the front of the house and a sunny terrace at back. Squarely on the two ‘stacked’ rectangular volumes, there is a curved wall of glassbricks on the ground floor. This wall contains two steel doors and marks the boundary of the private- and the public part of the house. The curved shape of the wall follows exactly the building-line. The dimensions of the cantilever and the terrace were determined by the urban design. This transformation results in a linear path through 5 different rooms with a variety of atmospheres. From public space to private room: the open void under the cantilever with a pavement of flagstones, the private kitchen behind the glassbricks, the inner space enlightened by a scuttle and a skylight in the middle of the house, the living room and an outside ‘open air room’ enclosed by a screen of expanded metal mesh. This last one is more or less a substitute for a garden. In this suburb the houses are piling up, because of that we did not design a garden, but different outside spaces: a terrace on the first floor, and on the ground floor an ‘open air room’ and beside that a little patio. The terrace is linked by an outside stairs to the ‘open air room’.
The interior of the house is dressed up, on one hand by the continuation of the metal ceiling under the cantilever to the middle of the house and on the other hand by the continuation of the wooden floor of the terraces towards the wooden ‘plexwood’ floor of the living room, the wall and the staircase. These two materials shake hands in the middle of the house. This is the place where the staircase is situated and we can see the stars through the skylight.In this neighbourhood all the houses were build round a little kidney shaped plaza. This building plot of the Steel Study House takes a distinguished position on this place. Therefore it was essential to make the cantilever to leave the space of the square open. At the same time this cantilever becomes the starting-point of the special construction.