‘Simplicity – less is more’, Almere International design competition
Client: de Fantasie, Almere
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with T. Iwashita, J. Pena
Engineering: Multical, Rotterdam
Year: 2006


…the cheapest and most simple house in The Netherlands


To live cheap in a typical Dutch polder, on the former sea floor, living inside the soil and in the flat landscape make the biggest challenge.


We took a basement as starting point. Not in an underground position, but placed on grade because of simplicity, low budget and the close underground water level. The landscape is lifted as well. We made a concrete box, openend up at both ends. This tube is fully embedded in the landscape by a grass deck and two slopes. The sloping sides make it in to a dike… The house is not only embedded in the context, but within Dutch culture as well: it is very cheap and it is a dike house.


The house is designed for an individual or a couple with no kids. To make the tube perform properly it is important for it to remain functionally open. At grade a cross is made in the east west direction, while the landscape is intersecting overhead in the north south direction. This provides a functional and open interior with changing daylight throughout different times of the day.


Within its profile, the house changes three times through the application of three materials that make three types of architecture: the concrete tube with grass deck, a glass house and a flexible tent. The tent and glass house are exterior spaces at both ends, the tent on the warm west side and the glass house in the morning sun on the east side. Around noon the interior in the tube is shaded to avoid heating up. This orientation creates a good interior and exterior climate. The third exterior space is located on top with wide perspective views over the surroundings.


To keep an open plan we organized two issues. All service program that would disturb the open interior are assembled in a wooden service zone along one of the long walls. For programs that need visual separation we arranged five curtains that vary in size and location. The combination of the open plan and the curtains provides flexible use of space and spatial quality. The curtains that have natural prints like water, bark, leaves, bamboo and sun flowers, are envelopes for sitting, dining or sleeping. These activities can change place (and curtain). The service zone contains the entry, heating equipment, kitchen, sanitary unit with shower and a washer dryer combi.


The house can be constructed with standard techniques and standard detailing. One detail only, the roof edge, is sufficient for bidding. Materials are simple. The grass cover has deep roots, triangular end walls are rough sand stone blocks, the glass house is made of standard aluminum profiles with single glass. The tent is made of a light tubular frame and reinforced orange fabric. The two sliding windows on each side are made of anodised aluminum. The concrete edge around the facades is prefab standard grey concrete, representing the tube behind. The concrete tube is constructed like a basement of prefab elements. Integrated floor heating avoids the use of radiators or convectors that would block the open plan. The floor is polished concrete treated with oxaan oil that gives a ‘marble’ dust free surface. The service zone is made in wood, finished with okume multiplex. The aluminum curtain rails are curved by hand and mounted directly onto the concrete ceiling. The curtains are made of cheap, semi transparent fabric.