Text description provided by the architects. House SSK confronts the old urban fabric with the desire for a larger whole. The house disengages from its context but is at the same time imprisoned within it. It provides a response to the recurrent and very direct issues that crop up when designing contemporary urban dwellings, such as the dilemma of new-build versus renovation, affordability, sustainability, and comfort. The plot, in an old working-class area in the center of Kortrijk, prompted reflection on the intrinsic value of this urban fabric. Did it call for renovation or intensification, or would tabula rasa be a better strategy?
The house combines these different options. It detaches itself from the existing frontage line, allowing for the creation of a volume that fulfills contemporary requirements. The facade was reconstructed as a gesture towards integration and at the same time acts as a buffer. Inside the plot, this gave rise to unrestrained freedom. The building, the ‘protected volume’, could now be optimized and oriented so as to generate the most efficient Existenzminimum possible. Every square meter counted.
The house was effectively turned inside-out, with beauty being created on the inside. On the plot boundary, the existing walls were preserved, and the construction materials left exposed. The front elevation was rebuilt in basic clay blocks in a deliberate attempt to keep the costs down. The living space forms a spatial entity with the street. Here the city becomes a part of the house. Or vice versa. The scale of living changes and so too the relation between interior and exterior. In House SSK that boundary is non-existent.
The residual spaces were turned into leafy front and back patios. At the front, this greenery blends with the street, whereas elsewhere largely blank facades render the street inert. The new front elevation is defined but open. The glass facade behind offers purely physical protection. The plan organization is straightforward, with a central volume where all the building services and stairs are concentrated. On the ground floor, this comprises the bathroom and storage space for the bedroom at the back. On the first floor, this closed volume becomes smaller and contains only the kitchen and stairs.
The rest of the house is open. The glass box in which all this takes place is slightly rotated vis-à-vis the plot in order to take advantage of the available light throughout the day. The house seeks to rethink present-day life in the central European city and in so doing to help create an urban environment that is a world away from the sterile and superseded suburbs. On the one hand by combining spatial quality with affordability, on the other by forging a new relationship between the individual and their changing context.