Photographe: Luuk Kramer, Robert Poeze
The ‘Kerkebuurt’ (church neighborhood) in Soest, The Netherlands, is a small historical town centre that, in its entirety, received the ‘protected rural site’ status.
One of the most characteristic buildings in this area is the former Old Men and Womens’ House, from 1782. The present owner wanted to increase the size of the house, but all suggested extension-plans were vetoed by the town’s ‘Rijksmonumentendienst’ (Dutch Heritage organization). Therefore, it was decided to build a freestanding garden pavilion on the site of two former barns. The pavilion equals in size an extra house. It contains plenty storage space and, at the same time, can be used as a guest house or as a workshop space. For the owners this especially means an additional ‘flexible’ interior space, complete with a large, partly covered, terrace.
The pavilion is a two-storey building with a souterrain and ground floor. For the souterrain a poured concrete vessel was lined with raw wood, which when dried retains this texture, of which the edge has been covered with a larix framebeam. The floor beams are laid across this frame, with on the south side a clearly cantilevered terrace. The lightness of the garden pavilion - thanks to the tendril construction and all the glass - is underlined by the level difference between garden and floor: the building seems to float. A special detail along the floor beam between the souterrain and ground floor introduces a glass counterfoil. Through this visual contact with the outside world; and with the ground floor as well, because the floor, between the members, is also of glass.
The superstructure has been carried out entirely in timber construction. To this structure 15 larix load-bearing members have been added in a tight rhythm of 90cm centres. Panels on the street- and backside of the building provide stability. The inside of these panels is covered with larix plywood and on the outside with black raw weather boarding.
Thus the pavilion turns its back to its neighbors and appears to be an agrarian barn. It opens up to the garden: both the southern- and eastern side are fully composed of glass. Thereby the pavilion acts as a ‘light-catcher’, and also offers a grand view of the historical town centre and the banks of the Eem river.
Wherever possible the construction fulfills several functions. The construction frames on the south side serve as casings, making window frames superfluous. On the inside, against the closed northern back wall, they support a number of bookshelves. Even the brise-soleil are made of larix: six vertical slotted shutters have been introduced on the outside of the glass. They can be slid along each other, making an enormous variation possible of openness or closeness. No extra mechanisms are needed for this ingenious play: they slide smoothly by hand, by means of saw cuts in floor and upper threshold.
Located in the pavilion’s centre, a rigid core with extremely slender dimensions, links the two storeys together. Actually, it’s a hollow wall containing ventilation, heating, and all necessary piping. Even sliding doors have been integrated: both in the souterrain and on the ground floor they can change undivided space into separate chambers.
This modest pavilion, appearing surprisingly large on the inside, forms a refined whole thanks to the precise detailing. This project has attempted to prove that contemporary architecture can peacefully co-exist with a historical site. As long as it can measure itself with regards to quality and craftsmanship with its surroundings!