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Erick van Egeraat's housing in Tilburg mixes public and private provision in two elegantly austere blocks that have a welcome formal modesty.

Best known for idiosyncratically cannabalized office buildings (ARs July 1995 and June 1999), Erick van Egeraat has also realized a number of housing schemes. While inevitably less formally expressive, such projects test the relationship between programme and architecture in important ways.

Van Egeraat's most recent housing scheme is in Tilburg, near the Netherlands' southern border with Belgium. Set in a quiet urban backwater, near a school and an imposing nineteenth-century church, the programme specified nine houses for the owner-occupier market and 26 one-bedroom rental flats. Houses and flats are divided into two separate long rectangular blocks at right angles to each other facing over the school playground.

The terrace of houses is based around a two-storey town house model, with small private gardens to front and back. On a 5.1m wide plot, living and dining spaces are organized round a central imperforate hub of circulation and storage, with three bedrooms above. An austere palette of materials is used to create the tautly elegant geometries of the long elevations. Lower floors are fully glazed, but opaque sections preserve privacy, so transparency is confined to a narrow horizontal strip. Above, clear glass is partnered with vertical panels of Western red cedar, which will age gracefully to a weathered silver. Slate-clad pilasters mark the boundaries between each house and gardens are divided by low concrete walls.

The larger three-storey apartment block continues the theme of formal and material reticence. Flats are reached from wide gallery spaces running along the main northeast elevation. Decks are enclosed by glass and cedar panels, which can slide back during summer to admit sun and air. Benches are placed in the deck spaces to encourage communal interaction.

Each apartment is based on a 7.2m wide module, with a south-west facing balcony to the rear. An L-shaped living room, bedroom and kitchen space wraps around a core of bathroom, storage and entrance hall. The long living room is terminated by a kitchen that projects out slightly on to the access galleries. Deck-facing elevations of pale ash are incised with visor-like windows.

Flats are arranged in rows of seven over three storeys, with five on a lower ground level. Recessed under the projecting gallery decks above, the latter might seem slightly oppressive, but are afforded the compensation of small rear gardens. Clad in bands of slate, end elevations form visually solid bulwarks to the long glass and timber facades.

Despite its enviable proliferation, new Dutch housing often oscillates between Calvinist grimness and kooky theatricality. its attention to social and spatial interaction allied to thoughtful use of materials, van Egeraat's Tilburg scheme is distinguished by a pleasing, entirely appropriate modesty.

Architect Erick van Egeraat Architects. Rotterdam

Photographs Christian Richters

1.Town houses, with the apartment block beyond.

2.In the apartment block, access decks are enclosed by sliding cedar and glass panels.

3.Both blocks display a formal and material reticence, yet enhance their low key urban context.

4.Detail of one of the access stairs in apartment block.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:architectural design
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Previous Article:DUTCH DUET.
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