The building trade and the social situation in the early years of our practice were such that the majority of our commissions consisted of interventions to existing buildings or spatial redesigns of building complexes. In this way we contributed to the sum total of the building activity which - in an on-going interrelationship of action and reception produced a considerable material output at that time. We perceive that totality as primary matter, the raw material of our trade from which all our work as architects stems. The Mys house was itself the result of an extremely complex building history: built in the eighteenth century it was subject to an extensive restructuring at the end of the nineteenth century. And although the facade suggests a symmetrical house, with building segments on either side of the porte-cochere, only the right-hand side has a linear series of consecutive rooms. The whole is linked in the parallel by an orangery added at the beginning of this century.
Our interventions did not fundamentally alter the composition of consecutive rooms, but form instead a sort of archipelago of separate local interventions, which only become linked to each other by dint of association as you walk through the space. They were effected over a long period of time and with interruptions, and because they occurred at different periods they reflect the intentions of that particular moment. Some of our interventions in the Mys house formed the basis of ideas which recurred in later projects on a larger scale, or in another connotation.
The garden shed with the pitched roof, for instance, served as inspiration for the Kerksken bank and the biotechnical farm in Astene. Flemish terraced houses often accommodate a scheme of interconnected rooms. With the interventions to the Mys house, however, a deliberate attempt was made to provide a multiple centre to this linear structure. The individual interventions are manifested in a library tower, a loggia on the street side, a lightwell in the playroom and an incision in the wall, revealing both the mass of the wall and a view through to the garden.
The frequent interruptions in the building process have produced a multiplicity of interventions which only connect up in the mind of the viewer/visitor/user. And since unity can only be perceived by dint of an associative experience, the Mys house is undoubtedly open to a multiplicity of possibly conflicting interpretations - multiplicity which in the final analysis has given way to a horror vacui, the total saturation of the space.
Christian and Martine Mys
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
Refurbishment of a family house
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Wim Cuyvers, Marleen Dilissen, Christian Kieckens
Thierry Decordier, Lili Dujouri, Cristina Iglesias, Juan Muñoz, Jan Vercruysse
BAS (Dirk Jaspaert)