Exclusive house over six floors in a water tower

After several years of inactivity, the water tower on the Amsterdamsestraatweg in Utrecht has found a new destination. In 2012, a private individual purchased the dilapidated national monument; Zecc Architecten was commissioned to design the conversion into an exclusive six-storey house (in the former water reservoir), three apartments (in the lower part of the tower) and a business premises on the ground floor.

The challenge for the design, says Zecc, was to create good daylight openings, a beautiful outdoor area with a view of the Dom and good access with a lift and safe staircase. The architectural firm has carefully incorporated the interventions in the architecture of the Amsterdam School of the more than 100-year-old monument.

In the lower part of the water tower, from the first to the third floor, three identical student apartments have been realized on the existing floors. Here, the character of the robust masonry and the wooden or concrete beams is preserved as much as possible. There was sufficient height on these layers to create a compact volume, with a bedroom on the mezzanine and a kitchen, bathroom and (elevator) shaft at the bottom.

From the elevator you step directly into the apartment: a solution that gives an exclusive feeling and at the same time saves space. Three large openings have been made in the facade of the student accommodation, as a new ‘time layer’. The openings are equipped with steel folding doors in a Corten steel frame. When the facade is completely open, the house has a compact loggia as outdoor space.

Light and warm
On top of the water tower, in the former water reservoir, a house of 400 m2 over six floors has been realized. The house starts on the fourth floor, on what was once the concrete leak floor. Here is the entrance and access to a private elevator. The bottom of the water tank, which is made of sheet steel with coarse rivets, is clearly visible here. The warm rust color and the exposed brickwork are combined with new interventions in white and walnut, which ensure an entrance to the house that is as light as it is warm.

Towards the top, the more private functions such as guest rooms, relaxation area and storage space are located at the bottom. Further up, the space opens up more and more, creating a spectacular array of floors, voids and views, Zecc explains. The barrel’s rust-colored steel walls are visible throughout the home. Together with the power-flowing concrete floor, they give the house a warm and industrial character. Here, too, the new interventions are always carried out in walnut and white, slim volumes.

From closed to open
After the entrance, you step via the hanging staircase through a cut in the barrel to the fifth floor, where there is a free space in the round bottom of the barrel. There is space here for business presentations, film screenings or, for example, a house concert. No direct daylight enters the room, but natural light enters from above via the new wooden staircase.

The sixth floor contains three guest rooms with associated facilities. Here, the cuts in the tub, which provide daylight, become larger and the relationship with the surroundings and the view becomes stronger. The openings in the vessel have been handled in different ways so that every room and function gets a suitable experience of daylight and environment.

In the lower sleeping areas, the steel is cut and folded away towards the existing openings in the brick facade. As a result, your gaze is focused, grazing light falls in and the character of the barrel is preserved due to the relatively small incisions.

View with loggia
The seventh floor contains the master bedroom as a whole with bathroom and dressing room. This was chosen to provide a spectacular view of the (awakening) city at sunrise and the Dom Tower in the center of Utrecht, says Zecc. For this purpose, a large opening has been made in the barrel and masonry of the outer facade.

A loggia improves contact with the outside. The original vertical window moldings in the outer facade continue across the facade as a reminder. The decor with accents of walnut, plants and upholstery guarantees the warm, homely atmosphere that belongs to home. The lighting is used to reinforce this and is fully adjustable according to the needs of the person and the moment.

Kitchen and living room
The kitchen is located on the eighth floor. Large recesses have been made in the barrel and enlarged windows in the facade. They provide plenty of daylight, are functional as a seat, provide extra storage space and act as a beautiful framing of the environment. A large cavity provides a view of the phenomenal roof structure. A spatial connection has also been made with the living room on the ninth floor. Walnut tones, colorful upholstery of the furniture and greenery have again been used in the interior.

On the ninth floor, under the high roof construction of steel and wood, the architectural firm has created panoramic windows all around for views in all directions. The new living room floor is laid at a height so that you can see the horizon while you sit and have a view of the city. The round island of loose furniture reinforces this feeling and still creates a degree of homeliness in the large room.

As on other floors in the tower, the atmosphere is hard and industrial and at the same time homely and intimate. The basis for the choice of materials was already present: the warm color and texture of the brickwork, the anthracite-coloured steel frames, the rusty barrel of nailed steel plate and the light gray steel rafters of the roof structure. This has been complemented by concrete floors, white interior walls and warm walnut tones in the floors, wall units and furniture. In the loose interior, this palette is complemented by natural and earthy colours.

In the future, a commercial function such as a coffee bar or hairdresser. In this way, the tower is also made accessible to the public. At the rear, now a vacant lot on Hyacintstraat, compact housing and a built parking facility will be built. This separates the urban development block and the water tower continues to determine Amsterdamsestraatweg’s identity as a free-standing monument.

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