Abandoned buildings have proved fertile ground for architects Jenny Eklund and Dominique ter Beek, who run the Rotterdam–based practice Eklund Terbeek Architecten.
In 2013, they oversaw the adaptive reuse of a traditional barn as a private vacation home. In 2017, they converted a 12-classroom schoolhouse into six apartment units for a co-housing community. For their latest project completed this year, the duo put the finishing touches on the Gym Loft— a standard-issue school gymnasium in Rotterdam Noord that has now been transformed into an airy loft for a family that loves to dance.
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Regarding the aesthetics, "the family wanted a calm and minimalist atmosphere where the experience of space, light, and movement provided the key qualities," says Eklund and ter Beek. "The client is a creative family of four who are active in dance and theater; thus providing space for movement (and maybe an occasional performance) was important."
The gymnasium’s original ceiling clocked in at over 5.5 meters tall (or 18 feet), so the architects used the height to insert a mezzanine level. Doing so allowed them to put a private master suite upstairs and cluster the children’s quarters—including two bedrooms and a shared walk-through playroom and bathroom—below.
"The gym hall…provided us with a challenge regarding light and privacy," explains the firm. "Three sides of the building are facing the public domain, and due to the preservation of a large existing mural on the side facade, the possibilities for adding windows were limited."
The demolition of a 1970s extension gave them room to insert new openings where the kitchen and a small sitting room are now located. Then they placed an open living area underneath the original arched windows, ensuring that it, and the connected dining room and kitchen, are flooded with natural light.
"The exceptional dimensions of the space required a few large gestures," says the firm, including the podium and a dramatic floating staircase. The original ceiling beams were also exaggerated in size to fit the scale of the building.
With such a restrained material and color palette, the architects emphasize how these grand gestures—the beams, podium, balcony over the kitchen, and kitchen island—"form a dynamic composition of horizontal elements that tie the different parts of the home together," almost like a rhythmic refrain.
"My favorite aspect of this home is its sense of space and how it encourages movement," says Eklund. "Its atmosphere is simultaneously dynamic and calm."
Related Reading: A 20th-Century Dutch Schoolhouse Now Holds a Series of Airy Lofts
Architecture: Eklund Terbeek Architecten
Structural Engineer: IMd
Interior Design: Eklund Terbeek Architecten