Orange Architects Unveils Stacked and Staggered Private Housing in Rotterdam

The 18 single-family houses and 17 apartments that make up Rietzoom are part of a much-needed plan to create more private housing in the Dutch city.

Orangearchitects Rietzoom 01
The Rietzoom development in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, provides much needed housing for the growing city. Courtesy Sebastian van Damme

Clad in red brick in varying tones, the flat-roofed houses of the Rietzoom development in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, take the form of a series of stacked volumes, with staggered facades accommodating various window sizes, turrets, balconies, and roof terraces that make each structure different from its neighbor. The houses are grouped in semi-detached or mini row formations, with each structure containing two, three, or five homes.

The dwellings are part of Park 16Hoven, a major city extension project that covers 400 hectares located on a polder—a piece of land reclaimed from the water using dikes. It’s located in an underdeveloped area between the city center and Rotterdam’s The Hague Airport. “The location is, on the one hand, relatively urban because it’s within the city parameter, but at the same time, it always had this kind of rural quality,” says Jeroen Schipper, partner at Orange Architects, the Rotterdam-based firm that designed this part of the development.

Orangearchitects Rietzoom 10
Courtesy Sebastian van Damme

Looking for an architectural approach that encompassed both the urban and the rural resulted in the idea of creating buildings that are “a little bit more informal, a little bit more exuberant, a little bit more expressive,” he adds.

The pronounced building-block-like appearance is made possible through a structural trick. The load-bearing walls are perpendicular to the back and front facades, between the houses in each grouping. The facades where the architects have created the setbacks are non-load bearing, making it easier to extend the floor out or push it in.

The bricks used to clad the concrete-block structures were sourced from an old factory in the center of Holland, hand-formed and baked at different temperatures to create a color variation that emphasizes the layering of different volumes. In some houses, the bricks start light at the bottom and become progressively darker while in others the bricks are arranged from dark to light.

“What we wanted to do with this layering effect and enhancing it with the different color of brick was to make it stronger, so it appears as one volume but at the same time, with the different coloring of the different layers, you get this more informal effect,” Schipper says.

Orangearchitects Rietzoom 03
Courtesy Sebastian van Damme

The two four-story apartment buildings echo the use of brick, although the staggering of volumes is less pronounced, with simple but generous balconies protruding from the facade. “In general, you see that the apartment buildings are more occupied by older people who have sold their house and want to live in an apartment but still close to the city,” says Schipper, explaining that homes with a private garden are more popular in the Netherlands than in other European countries.

Plans to transform Park 16Hoven into a new residential district began in 2002, with the first masterplan produced in 2003 and more than 550 homes completed by 2017. It is split into six “neighborhoods,” built in phases, including a major new park.

Although Park 16Hoven was conceived before the last housing crash, it weathered that storm to find the tables have turned dramatically. Demand is extremely high in Rotterdam, where house prices have continued to rise to record levels despite the pandemic. The Netherlands is in the midst of a major housing crisis, with construction rates failing to keep pace with population growth, putting additional pressure on property prices and availability in major cities.

“We are lacking one million houses in Holland,” says Schipper. “There is definitely a need for a lot [of new housing], from high end to social housing.”

You may also enjoy “The Newest Addition to Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex is a Paragon of Sustainability

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]


Register here for Metropolis’s Think Tank Thursdays and hear what leading firms across North America are thinking and working on today.

Recent Projects