written by:
photos by:
November 16, 2009
Originally published in The Future
as
Creative Commons

Craving not just a home but a proper piece of architecture, a handful of design- and business-savvy Dutch families banded together, hired an architect, and set about forming the community that would net them the houses of their dreams.

Seen here from the south, Villa van Vijven’s orange facade is meant to mimic the tiled rooftops of Holland’s country buildings, while the building’s horizontal pull echoes the flat landscape. The second-floor living rooms look out on the 4,200-square-foot
Seen here from the south, Villa van Vijven’s orange facade is meant to mimic the tiled rooftops of Holland’s country buildings, while the building’s horizontal pull echoes the flat landscape. The second-floor living rooms look out on the 4,200-square-foot communal garden, one of only two shared spaces in the whole community. Bob Krone, Koos Sweringa, and Marianne Schram stroll the grounds.
Photo by 
1 / 22
Marianne Schram reads in her bedroom while her husband, Koos Sweringa, looks in from the stairs below.
Marianne Schram reads in her bedroom while her husband, Koos Sweringa, looks in from the stairs below.
Photo by 
2 / 22
Nineteen-year-old Yvette Sweringa arrives at the villa by bike.
Nineteen-year-old Yvette Sweringa arrives at the villa by bike.
Photo by 
3 / 22
Paula van Dijk (left) poses with her sister, Vera.
Paula van Dijk (left) poses with her sister, Vera.
Photo by 
4 / 22
Thijske Noordhoek relaxes in her study-cum-bedroom.
Thijske Noordhoek relaxes in her study-cum-bedroom.
Photo by 
5 / 22
Five-year-old Thomas Dochter plays outside the houses.
Five-year-old Thomas Dochter plays outside the houses.
Photo by 
6 / 22
Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk go for a walk while Lucas and Jillis Noordhoek lounge on the grass. Their parents, Jacquelien and Cees Noordhoek, chat farther to the right.
Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk go for a walk while Lucas and Jillis Noordhoek lounge on the grass. Their parents, Jacquelien and Cees Noordhoek, chat farther to the right.
Photo by 
7 / 22
Johan Bouwmeester built a library out of oak.
Johan Bouwmeester built a library out of oak.
Photo by 
8 / 22
The communal entrance beneath the building is known as the “public square”; sisters Tessa and Anne Bouwmeester and a friend set off on their bikes.
The communal entrance beneath the building is known as the “public square”; sisters Tessa and Anne Bouwmeester and a friend set off on their bikes.
Photo by 
9 / 22
Van Dijk's framed pictures stacked on the floor form an impromptu point of visual interest.
Van Dijk's framed pictures stacked on the floor form an impromptu point of visual interest.
Photo by 
10 / 22
Koos Sweringa and Marianne Schram putter in the kitchen.
Koos Sweringa and Marianne Schram putter in the kitchen.
Photo by 
11 / 22
Yvette studies in her bedroom. The use of different colors for the various walls was inspired by the orange exterior.
Yvette studies in her bedroom. The use of different colors for the various walls was inspired by the orange exterior.
Photo by 
12 / 22
In addition to the public garden, each unit has its own private plot.
In addition to the public garden, each unit has its own private plot.
Photo by 
13 / 22
Cees, Jacquelien, Jillis, Lucas, and Thijske Noordhoek gather on the lawn; Andy Dochter looks out of the window while his wife Miriam stands on the terrace with sons Thomas and Vincent.
Cees, Jacquelien, Jillis, Lucas, and Thijske Noordhoek gather on the lawn; Andy Dochter looks out of the window while his wife Miriam stands on the terrace with sons Thomas and Vincent.
Photo by 
14 / 22
Despite the communal nature of their living arrangement, the residents of Villa Van Vijven, like Miriam Dochter, maintain that they still lead very independent, private lives.
Despite the communal nature of their living arrangement, the residents of Villa Van Vijven, like Miriam Dochter, maintain that they still lead very independent, private lives.
Photo by 
15 / 22
The communal entry has a large house number, 28 in the case of the Bouwmeester/Blokius family, to distinguish it from its neighbors.
The communal entry has a large house number, 28 in the case of the Bouwmeester/Blokius family, to distinguish it from its neighbors.
Photo by 
16 / 22
Villa Van Vijven cuts a truly remarkable figure, a striking orange figure on the otherwise flat green landscape.
Villa Van Vijven cuts a truly remarkable figure, a striking orange figure on the otherwise flat green landscape.
Photo by 
17 / 22
The Noordhoek family is the biggest at Villa Van Vijven and they make use of the ample green space outside.
The Noordhoek family is the biggest at Villa Van Vijven and they make use of the ample green space outside.
Photo by 
18 / 22
Thomas and Vincent Dochter lounge in the living room of the blue apartment.
Thomas and Vincent Dochter lounge in the living room of the blue apartment.
Photo by 
19 / 22
Bob Krone and Paula Van Dijk pose in front of their built-in bookcase. They live in the red unit.
Bob Krone and Paula Van Dijk pose in front of their built-in bookcase. They live in the red unit.
Photo by 
20 / 22
The nearby lake makes for a pretty setting, especially when framed by Villa Van Vijven's orange facade.
The nearby lake makes for a pretty setting, especially when framed by Villa Van Vijven's orange facade.
Photo by 
21 / 22
Outdoor chores like gardening and landscaping fall to the residents. The entryway's orange glow is magnificent when lit by the sun.
Outdoor chores like gardening and landscaping fall to the residents. The entryway's orange glow is magnificent when lit by the sun.
Photo by 
22 / 22
Seen here from the south, Villa van Vijven’s orange facade is meant to mimic the tiled rooftops of Holland’s country buildings, while the building’s horizontal pull echoes the flat landscape. The second-floor living rooms look out on the 4,200-square-foot
Seen here from the south, Villa van Vijven’s orange facade is meant to mimic the tiled rooftops of Holland’s country buildings, while the building’s horizontal pull echoes the flat landscape. The second-floor living rooms look out on the 4,200-square-foot communal garden, one of only two shared spaces in the whole community. Bob Krone, Koos Sweringa, and Marianne Schram stroll the grounds.
Project 
Villa van Vijven
Architect 

With the idea of communal living all too prone to conjure visions of student squalor or hippy homeliness, Villa van Vijven comes as a refreshing surprise. The strikingly sculptural bright orange building, reclining in the flat Dutch landscape, accommodates five families under a single, stylish roof. And there’s not a whiff of carob in the air.

Step into any one of its five apartments and you are convinced that you've entered an independent piece of architecture entirely. Though they vary in size (the largest is 3,200 square feet), each unit has a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape and its own distinctive layout, decor, and, of course, inhabitants. The group ranges from a business manager to a sports coach to an art historian. “We don’t necessarily see each other every day,” says Paula van Dijk (the art historian). “Often, we just say hello when leaving or coming home again.” Cees Noordhoek, a sales manager who lives here with his wife, Jacquelien, and three kids, adds: “It just doesn’t really feel like communal living.”

Marianne Schram reads in her bedroom while her husband, Koos Sweringa, looks in from the stairs below.
Marianne Schram reads in her bedroom while her husband, Koos Sweringa, looks in from the stairs below.

Yet Villa van Vijven is a truly collective and collaborative project, financed and commissioned by five families (19 people in total) who wanted to build a home that they could otherwise never afford: an architecturally high-impact retreat set in extensive gardens, with great views of the surrounding landscape and nearby lake. Residents Johan Bouwmeester and Marlene Blokhuis got the ball rolling when they found the large plot to the southwest of the new and rapidly growing city of Almere, an hour from Amsterdam. The appeal of the relatively rural setting, just 10 minutes from the center of the city, was manifest, and the couple began inviting design-minded acquaintances to join in on the project.

Nineteen-year-old Yvette Sweringa arrives at the villa by bike.
Nineteen-year-old Yvette Sweringa arrives at the villa by bike.

The next step was to find the right architect, one able to embrace the kind of co-creation process that the group needed to accommodate their five different dream homes under one roof. “Our first architect bullied us,” Noordhoek recalls. “But then someone told us about this promising young office, Next Architects. So we did two workshops with them and found that they were able to focus our rambling thoughts. That was enough to convince us.”

With the architect on board, the business of obtaining financing, permits, and other essential administration was handled, Noordhoek says, “in the same way we organized all details—by mandate. For every part of the process we appointed two managers, who did the field research, asked for competitive bids from suppliers, and had the power to act on behalf of the group. The group as a whole was presented with a detailed proposal for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. We felt that discussions and emotions shouldn’t be allowed to run loose. We knew that only when we acted like professional managers would it be possible to build the house on schedule and within budget.”

Paula van Dijk (left) poses with her sister, Vera.
Paula van Dijk (left) poses with her sister, Vera.

The same tough principles were applied to the design process. “Difficulties mainly arose when individual preferences collided with another person’s interests,” Noordhoek says. “But in every case of conflicting preferences, we simply let the architect make the decision. Usually, that worked.”

“It was very different from having one client,” says architect Michel Schreinemachers of Next Architects. “With a group, you have another dynamic entirely.

Yet it worked quite nicely.” At many steps along the way Schreinemachers would propose several options, which the group would discuss and then return with feedback. The final decision, though, was always the architect’s. “If I’d suggested the eventual building at the outset, they would have walked away,” he adds. “They wanted something very industrial, or thought they did. But they always wanted something architecturally interesting, a landmark building, and this design grew out of our discussions.”

Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk go for a walk while Lucas and Jillis Noordhoek lounge on the grass. Their parents, Jacquelien and Cees Noordhoek, chat farther to the right.
Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk go for a walk while Lucas and Jillis Noordhoek lounge on the grass. Their parents, Jacquelien and Cees Noordhoek, chat farther to the right.

Schreinemachers visualized the space as a block of rectangles that he rotated to face different directions, adding and subtracting volumes to reflect the residents’ wishes. The result is a Tetris-like layering of interlocking shapes, each with its own character and its own signifying color as visualized in the plans. “When Michel finished his drawings, everyone had to choose the unit they wanted—it was the moment of truth!” Noordhoek says. “And each of the five groups went for a different one, which shows how well the architect interpreted our wishes.”

Personal wishes could often be indulged, given that the truly communal areas of the project are just the large garden (each family also has a small private garden as well) and what Schreinemachers calls “the public square” onto which all the front doors open: a glowing orange space carved out underneath the building, where the residents tend to leave their bicycles and bump into each other on the way in or out. This feature, van Dijk says, “gives the building a really playful quality, as does its great openness to the garden.” Schreinemachers reports that he achieved it “by raising the living room up to the second floor. You can walk straight into the garden from the living rooms, over the terrace.”

Van Dijk's framed pictures stacked on the floor form an impromptu point of visual interest.
Van Dijk's framed pictures stacked on the floor form an impromptu point of visual interest.

Schreinmachers chose orange for the exterior to reference the traditional orange-tiled rooftops of Dutch country buildings. Echoing the splashy chromatics of the outside, the residents quickly set about brightly painting their own interiors. In Paula van Dijk and Bob Krone’s minimal white space, for example, there’s a vivid splash of yellow, while Koos Sweringa, seeking a bit of formal instruction, attended a color course that inspired a whole palette of shades.

Color aside, the actual interior design was left to the residents themselves—to keep costs down they moved into bare spaces. Undaunted by empty expanses of naked walls and flooring, each family created an interior that satisfies their individual desires and shows a strong sense of ownership. Noordhoek (who took the green unit) sought ample floor space for his large family, and thus his unit is a generous 3,200 square feet. Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk (who took the red apartment) wanted “big, open spaces with long walls for hanging paintings and as few doors as possible.” Koos Sweringa and Marianne Schram (whose two college-age daughters usually stay at the yellow apartment with them on weekends) wanted a “live-in” kitchen that resides in the place of honor that the other families have assigned to the living room. They also have a capsule kitchen next to their bedroom on the second floor, plus a view of the historic tower of Naarden from the same room.

Though the architecture favors idiosyncrasy over uniformity, when it comes to each other, the residents are all quick to note that pragmatism is what they value most. They are unanimously keen to emphasize that they are best neighbors, not best friends. Thus, they maintain a fund for the upkeep of the house and are working on the idea of a shared amphitheater with a fireplace for the garden. But house meetings are kept to a minimum—far fewer than the twice-monthly gatherings demanded by the five-year development process. “The biggest advantage of living together is that we can use each other’s expertise,” Krone says. “Another advantage is that when you’re on vacation, there’s someone to pick up the mail, water the plants, and feed the pets.”

Even while enjoying all these advantages, “I think we all still wonder what on earth it was that made us go for this unusual design,” Noordhoek says, as he strolls through the garden. “But it just stands out in every respect,” he adds, turning to look at the villa. “It surprises me every day that we dared to do it. It really is the building of our dreams.”

 

To see more images of the project, please visit our slideshow.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016