Narrow House

Rupture lines and holes in the urban fabric reveal different periods in the history of Rotterdam. Small-scale densification on such locations can contribute to the healing of the urban structure and the upgrading of the area as a whole. In the Jacobusstraat, in the city centre, replacement of a large part of the 19th century structures during the urban renewal of the 1980s has resulted in a staggered building line and a narrow gap between the two building types. The extreme dimensions of this space makes the creation of a well-functioning home here a challenge.


Making use of the existing building line of the urban renewal block at the front and of the 19th century buildings at the back results in a very compact four level dwelling. The first two floors houses bedrooms, bath and a small workspace. An open plan kitchen and dining space is situated on the third floor.The top floor lounge space peaks up above its neighbors and has a 360˚ view. By adding a transition zone between the house and the street, it becomes possible to combine maximum transparency with privacy for the residents. By playing with sightlines, layering, transparency and reflection the visual space of the house can be increased. Despite its limited dimensions, the house feels spacious. The transition zone mediates between the building lines of the adjacent buildings and smoothes out the break in the urban structure.


The transition zone becomes a vertical front garden, a variation of the traditional Dutch “gable garden”. A gable garden is a space between the house and the street that is managed by the resident and can be arranged with plants and a sitting area. The vertical garden is not used as a façade decor but to reinforce the spatial qualities of the home and at the same time add extra quality to the street. The hidden communal garden behind the house is made visible, and its entrance becomes more inviting. For the house it means “living between gardens”, in a small city oasis.


design: 2014 I size: 102 m2 I location: Rotterdam I client: private/AIR Rotterdam