• Stichting Tijssen
  • Heemstede
  • NL
  • 2001

The project concerns the conversion of a detached house with a small private garden into a hospice: a place where fatally ill people can spend their last days in a relatively homely environment. The existing building was found in very poor condition, technically as well as architecturally. Poorly built and designed from start, it apparently was altered for the worse many times during the past century, bits and pieces changed and added, finally leaving it in a deplorable condition. For this reason and in order to meet the new functional program the building required a drastic alteration, inside as well as outside.

The project intends to re-make the existing building as it never was. In other words: it intends to restore the building in a condition that never existed before, but, judging on its, in relation to the existing, self-evident new plans and appearance apparently could have. All deviant exterior additions are demolished and the pitched roof is extended over the existing terrace, in order to create the clear and freestanding rectangular volume that never existed before. Existing interior walls and constructions are demolished and several rooms are united in order to provide the plans with an internal logic they never had. A new extension that provides the required extra space is carefully wrapped around the new volume and fitted in with the new plans as if it was always there.

Finally, in order to express the ambiguity of this modest attempt to falsify architectural history, the red brick facade at the rear of the building, including the new extension, is roughly painted the color of the nostalgically brutalist, concrete edge of the new ‘toit jardin’, creating a literally two-faced house. In front of the building nothing appears to have changed, but turning around at the back the same architecture appears to be rather different. An ambiguity that is further enhanced by the new wooden entrance door realized at the back, which is symmetrical and identical with the existing one in front. It turns front and back commutable and in a way opens up the area of private gardens within the urban block of detached and semi-detached houses. A circular footpath connects both doors with the street and with each other, affirming the autonomy of the architectural object, while offering a short, but potentially continuous walk around the house.