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June 7, 2013
In the eastern Netherlands, resourceful recyclers Superuse Studios have built a house almost entirely out of locally-sourced scrap, from old billboards to broken umbrellas. Here's a look at how junk became innovative design.
Recycled Home in the Netherlands

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, the Netherlands, doesn't look like a recycled building. Its austere lines and spacious interior have nothing of the junkyard aesthetic about them. Yet despite appearances, it's reused to the bones. To accomplish this, architects Jan Jongert and Jeroen Bergsma reversed the typical order of the design process—first house, then materials—and instead began by scouting the local area for items to recycle.

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Cable reel

When the architects received the commission for Villa Welpeloo, step one was to create a "harvest map," an inventory of possible suppliers from within a nine-mile radius of the building site. They found 600 cable reels, which they dismantled. They heat-treated the wood at about 300 to 377 degrees Fahrenheit, a natural Dutch weatherproofing technique known as the PLATO process. According to Jongert, "It took about seven minutes to dismantle each one, yielding quite a lot of wood each time."

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Originally appeared in Modern Recycled House in the Netherlands
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Facade clad with wood and recycled cable reels

The wooden cladding envelops the house protectively, overhanging the doors and windows. In some places it acts as a screen, covering some of the bathroom windows, for example, but still admitting light. 

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Originally appeared in Modern Recycled House in the Netherlands
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Recycled cabinetry in kitchen

The recycling continues in the interior fixtures, where discarded, chopped-up billboards have been used for the kitchen cabinetry. White paint camouflages their fronts, but when pulled open, their colorful sides offer a glimpse of their previous life as streetside advertising.

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Originally appeared in Modern Recycled House in the Netherlands
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Light sconces made from old umbrellas

Old umbrellas were dismantled to make delicately wiry halogen lamps.Playful touches like these humanize the house, softening its uncompromising modernist proportions and die-hard environmental credentials. "You do and you don't recognize the reused parts," explains Jongert. "It's simultaneous recognition and estrangement—which is what gives rise to beauty, and humor."

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Originally appeared in Modern Recycled House in the Netherlands
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Broken umbrella frame

To harvest the umbrellas, the architects leafleted a neighborhood in Utrecht, asking locals to drop off their broken umbrellas at a colleague's apartment.

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Originally appeared in Modern Recycled House in the Netherlands
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Recycled Home in the Netherlands

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, the Netherlands, doesn't look like a recycled building. Its austere lines and spacious interior have nothing of the junkyard aesthetic about them. Yet despite appearances, it's reused to the bones. To accomplish this, architects Jan Jongert and Jeroen Bergsma reversed the typical order of the design process—first house, then materials—and instead began by scouting the local area for items to recycle.

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