AGV Free Clinic Renovation

Team Joni Nieuwenhuysen
Bruno Spaas
Location Schijnpoortweg 14 B-2060 Antwerpen
Year 2023
Client AG Vespa
Contractor Basalt Bouw
Supplier Amorim Cork

For over 40 years, Free Clinic vzw has been focusing on the most vulnerable urban residents. Over the past decades, the organization has developed a specialized outpatient program for individuals facing severe dependence issues on illegal substances. Employing a harm reduction approach, various aspects of this complex problem are addressed.

In 2010, the existing building was expanded with a new volume, enveloped in corten steel.

A few years after the completion of the new building, the corten steel facade panels are at risk of detachment in numerous areas. A 2020 investigation revealed that the vertical wooden framework is aligned with the horizontal framework, and no rain screen was installed over the roof edge. As a result, the wooden framework has been compromised by moisture, leading to decay and fungal growth in multiple areas. Cracks and perforations have developed in the membranes. The insulation materials have been compromised, resulting in a loss of their insulating capability.

Commissioned to renovate the facades in a sustainable manner, upon investigation, it is determined that the corten steel panels are not recoverable/reusable and must be completely replaced. We propose what seems to be a straightforward solution: remove everything (corten steel panels, wooden framework, and insulation). Subsequently, adhere/screw cork insulation panels to the support structure and finish with facade cork. The rhythmic pattern of the corten steel panels created an engaging facade. By providing joints in the cork panels, a similar facade rhythm is achieved.

NYR Studio

Team Joni Nieuwenhuysen
Bruno Spaas
Location New Yorkkaai 81 B-2000 Antwerp
Year 2023
Contractors Deriemaeker Kollektief (Carpentry)
Mentens Marijn (Painting)

Optical illusions have been used in architecture ever since the Greeks started messing with the visual perception of proportion, lines and angles. Throughout millennia, artists and architects have teased and intrigued by making buildings and spaces appear different from what they actually are. The interior design of NYR Studio, a 50 square meter studio apartment located in the new harbour developments in Antwerp, is a contemporary twist on this phenomenon, also known as ‘trompe l’oeil’.

NYR Studio is part of the newly built waterfront project, New York Residence, on Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai, designed by the London architectural office, Sergison Bates. Situated on the ground floor, the studio is accessible through a green and lush inner courtyard. To comprise a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and utility room, NYR Studio has relatively few square meters, a classic studio challenge in terms of space. Yet, what it does not offer in width, it offers in height. With a more than five-meter-high ceiling, the space was calling for an intervention, to somehow make use of the verticality and create a unified atmosphere.

On all surfaces, walls, ceilings and floors, a striped pattern has been painted in two sober grey tones. Pointing in many different directions, the lines are altering the spatial perception, making the kitchen feel wider and lower and the mezzanine higher and more spacious. Strategically placed mirrors also help expanding the sense of space, like on the kitchen backdrop. The mirrors also add luminosity, as does the warm and intense yellow colour, painted inside the cabinets and throughout the entire bathroom and hallway surfaces.

With just a few yet strong operations, the stripes, the mirrors and the yellow, NYR Studio stands out as an atypical and unexpected interior, intended for short-stay visits, offering guests an uncommon and uplifting experience.

RDS Community House

Team Joni Nieuwenhuysen
Kelvin Obi
Bruno Spaas
Location Ruitersdreef 29 B-2900 Schoten
Year 2019-2022
Client Anapneusis vzw
Suppliers Vandersanden (facade bricks)
Awards BIS architecture prize 2022

Press HLN

The term ‘healthy building’ most commonly refers to tangible measures regarding a building’s indoor climate, energy use, green areas and construction materials. In the case of ‘RDS Community House’, a co-living project on the outskirts of Antwerp, all those aspects have been taken into consideration, but not only. Architecture should put a smile on your face, a welcoming and surprising visual impression also adds to the well-being of an environment.

With the bricks and façade elements all kept in one colour, a deep warm red, the building exudes unity and consistency. Yet, the monochromatic surface also allows for certain features to stand out graphically, such as the shape of the three-volume building, the windows and the façade design. The choice of unusual roof pitches, circular and half-circular windows and a unique brick pattern add a remarkable and cheerful expression, to be enjoyed both from the exterior and the interior of the building.

Commissioned by a local non-profit organisation providing housing for ex-homeless people, ‘RDS Community House’ is the new shared home for four residents. In addition to the detailed brief from the organisation, the residents have described which surroundings would offer them the most comfortable living conditions. The result is a building consisting of four individual 36 sqm studios, intimate and well-equipped, with views towards outside greenery, purposefully directed away from the common areas to avoid the necessity of curtains. The residents can enjoy the daylight and natural surroundings without feeling deprived from their private sphere – ‘privacy with a view’. The larger communal space, on the other hand, is open on all sides, accessible and visible from the outside, as an invitation for social gatherings.

Throughout the building, from its base to the top, ecological materials are applied to ensure a non-toxic living environment and a durable construction: natural shells from the North Sea for the foundation, wooden timber to form the frame structure, bio-composite lime-hemp concrete and wood wool to insulate the walls, wooden flooring from sustainably managed forests, and everything finished off with a brick façade and tiled roof to guarantee the building’s longevity. Due to prefabricated wall, floor and roof panels the construction process has benefited from being both time and material efficient.

WKA Penthouse

Team Joni Nieuwenhuysen
Bruno Spaas
Location Kattendijkdok Westkaai 41 B-2000 Antwerp
Year 2019-2022
Contractors MCM Bouw
Cools Interior
Suppliers Van Den Weghe (Natural Stone & Terrazzo)
PSLab (Lighting Design)

Press Wallpaper*
Sabato De Tijd
Sabato L'Echo
ARK Journal
AD Italia

Despite perching 15 floors high, there is solid ground in this penthouse situated in a tower building conceived by Swiss architects Diener & Diener. With the entire 350 square meter flooring made from chunks of light brown local natural stone, the earth has been raised into the sky.

Upon opening the front door, one is met with an immediate panoramic view over the city of Antwerp, due to a sizable floor-to-ceiling window right opposite the door. Stepping inside the entrance only intensifies the sensory experience: except for the stone floor, the 25 square meter foyer is like a mirror box reflecting the city view endlessly. Distortion-free tempered mirrors and high-glossy painted surfaces are recurrent in the apartment which play with the feeling of space, reflection and perspective, on cupboards, sliding doors, room dividers – even on inside of the kitchen extractor hood.

Besides a few carrying internal walls, the floor planning and all the interior elements have been designed and made-to-measure. The apartment is intended to be both flexible and open, and for that reason there is free circulation throughout the whole space with no dead ends, just doors to divide and add privacy when needed.

Verticality has been used as an overall aesthetic theme in the detailing and features of the built-in and freestanding furniture. The bench in the foyer and the kitchen islands along with sanitary elements like sinks and the bathtub in the master bathroom are customised pieces carrying the same visual expression, all built by strips of locally produced Belgian terrazzo. Their features are repeated in the painted woodwork, creating a common language and underlining the verticality of the tower.

BSA Office

Team Bruno Spaas
Location Maarschalk Gerardstraat 9 B-2000 Antwerp
Year 2018-2019
Contractor MCM Bouw
Product Tilly (Natural Wood Panels)

The studio and office is located in the city centre of Antwerp. What used to be an engraver’s store and workshop has turned into an architectural studio with plenty of space and light for a comfortable and open working environment. The main floor plan and functionalities of the different spaces have largely been kept, positioning the most public room, the meeting room and library, towards the street. With big windows between all the rooms, from the street to the very back, the interior and work activities are held visible. A former closed off corridor dividing the offices and the workshop at the back has been brought to light and now serves as a luminous central patio and green space. Grand skylights arches over the workshop where model making and material testing are carried out.

Instead of touching the shell and structure of the space to create a sense of wholeness, a common thread has been developed by designing custom furniture which speak the same language. All made by wooden panels with repeated shapes and angles, stools, chairs, tables and shelving systems define an entirety and bring the interior together.