Text description provided by the architects. Martens Willems & Humblé Architects designed a social housing residential block with retail within the protected townscape of Vaals. A small border town in The Netherlands. How can a large residential block in the social housing sector, which will partly determine the image of the new Koningin Julianaplein, become a natural part of the protected village scape of Vaals?
Because if buildings could speak, our block will have to enter into a strong dialogue with its surroundings. What language should we speak in this border town? Without Von Clermont, Vaals would have remained a village. Because of this energetic cloth manufacturer Johann von Clermont (1728-1795), the monumental von Clermont house, today's town hall, and the Bloemendal and Vaalsbroek castles appear in 18th-century Vaals.
Since that time Vaals is more or less a surprising stately suburb of Aachen (Germany), situated on the other side of the border. The current center of Vaals provides a diverse architectural canon, tied together by a color palette of painted white and reddish brown brickwork. All von Clermont buildings used to be 'gestrichen in ein gefäliges Gelb'.
Our L-shaped residential and commercial block surrounds the square with a natural yellow-brown, highly nuanced, handmade brick fired from nearby Maas clay, leaving striking white to the adjacent town hall. The architectural 'language' speaks in the same staccato rhythm as the large monuments and monumental houses a little further on, but also tells its own story, through the consistent repetition of a limited number of recurring architectural elements.
But in addition to a rhythm, a timbre is also needed in places where it matters, to articulate the whole in parts. By adding decorative additions in the form of wall discs, protruding balconies, ornamental railings, chimneys, and pylons that stand on the eaves. The block is divided into eleven "houses," large and small. Side by side, near the shopping arcade or protruding at the prominent corners, with underpasses for shoppers.
The complex is located in an underground parking garage. Shops and restaurants are planned on the ground floor, some parts have a gallery. The project was built for a social housing company. All the apartments are very spacious and every room of the dwelling always has a view of the square.