In the spot where Brouwhuis now stands was once a small white forester’s house. Dutch nature conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten didn’t object to this house being demolished to make way for a new house provided they could cast their eyes over the design beforehand and that it would fit into the environment. ‘Fortunately, that didn’t take long at all,’ says De Brouwer. ‘Besides the white house, there was also a black barn on the site. This was partly the inspiration for the new house. The idea being that the barn was a lot less conspicuous in the woods than the house.’
At one with the environment
Nestled in the middle of the woods, among the fens, is Brouwhuis, a house of modest proportions but with phenomenal views of the surrounding area. The architect behind it is Jacq. de Brouwer of Bedaux de Brouwer Architecten: ‘This house truly embodies what I stand for: relating a building to the environment gives it an air of timelessness.’
Relationship with the environment
Before Brouwhuis, the residents lived in an impressive building in Tilburg, which turned out to be too big once the children had flown the nest. ‘They wanted a new house for two people, but with enough space,’ De Brouwer says. ‘The house had to be cosy and have a similar standard of finish to the old house.’ In addition, it had to be designed in such a way that there was a maximum relationship with the environment. These requirements combined with a few mood boards created by the residents resulted in the final design.
Open and closed
The house is 27 metres long and 6 metres wide. Inside, all functions are connected linearly. The wall is closed on one side, where cars and walkers pass by. This was also done because there is now a road that runs through the woods, parallel to this closed wall. However, a glass entrance was added. On the closed side, there is also a block containing all technical equipment. This element has been made bigger and more sculptural so that it resembles a chimney. In contrast, the other side of the house is largely open thanks to the many windows and slim aluminium profiles by Reynaers. The aluminium windows were coated to create a matte, almost steely look. Triple glazing reduces cold downdraughts to a minimum.
In the short video below, architect Jacq. de Brouwer of Bedaux de Brouwer Architecten talks about his design.
The house is clad with black stained planks, a nod to the old barn that used to stand in this spot. De Brouwer: ‘The whole house has been designed based on the plank size. The dimensions of these planks continue all the way across the saddle roof to the other side. Openings in the wall, such as windows and vents, have also been tailored precisely to the plank width. A lot of hours have gone into working out all the details.’
A lot of wood was also used in the interior, designed by interior design firm Studio INAMATT. For instance, ceilings have been clad with wooden slats to create good acoustics. These slats also continue across the skylights, which not only provide light but also emphasise height. ‘The acoustics are incredibly important to the feel of a house,’ says De Brouwer. This and the relatively small living area together do, indeed, create that cosy feel that the residents wanted to achieve. De Brouwer: ‘We deliberately didn’t choose a big living space. This is at odds with the prevailing architecture in Oisterwijk. The residents and I both felt that: grandeur isn’t in surface area, but in details and quality.’
Guest in the landscape
One striking element of the house is the concrete platform it sits on. ‘This has both a functional and aesthetic purpose,’ says De Brouwer. ‘It’s practical because as a resident, you are higher than the walkers and cars passing by. In addition, it makes the house look like a stiletto-wearing guest in the landscape, so the house claims less space.’ Separation between the garden, designed by MTD Landschapsarchitecten, and the surrounding nature reserve has been kept to an absolute minimum. This does mean that walkers will occasionally walk through the garden. A recess in the floor plan of the house forms the terrace. This dent also results in two corner windows in the kitchen and bedroom, increasing views of the garden.
De Brouwer is proud of the house and how it was achieved together with the residents, façade construction company Aluvendo and building contractor. ‘This house truly embodies what I stand for: it will last a long time and keeps its value. Architecture often has a fashionable or temporary nature but by relating it to the environment, it takes on an air of permanence and timelessness. We have built something here that sits in the landscape and is in keeping with the spot. The house responds to the environment.’