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  • Diamonds: Villa D

    Gilles Retsin Architecture, "Diamonds: Villa D."
    london UNITED KINGDOM

    Villa D or “Diamonds” is a project for a multi-family residence in Wemmel, a suburbian village just outside of Brussels. The typology of a multi-family villa is foreign to Belgium, where most people live in single-family homes.

    The design is based on the use of a single element, with three different scales. This abstract building block is an L-shaped, hollow cross-laminated timber (CLT) beam, with perpendicular frames inside to improve the stiffness under any rotation. These building blocks are prefabricated and then assembled on site. They are finished on both ends with a steel-plate joint. None of the pieces have to be customized or cut. The irregular outside profile of the building is a result of this decision. Although all the elements are serially repeated, the resulting assemblage as a whole never repeats, producing a surprising and heterogeneous structure. One single element produces both floors, columns and ceilings and is both structural and ornamental at the same time. These pieces can be understood as large-scale Lego’s. The assembly of these elements can be done relatively easily using a gantry-mounted robot, as the connectivity is always repeating. Another option is manual assembly, which also leaves open the possibility for different authors to manipulate and customize the assembly at wish.

    Structurally, the elements are relatively weak by themselves, put produce a stiff structure as a whole. As the materials used are cheap, redundancy of elements becomes both necessary and feasible.
    The initially Modernist understanding of architecture as an assemblage of prefabricated, discrete elements turns into an unexpected new domain of previously unachievable detail, materiality, structure, and aesthetics while remaining highly economic.

    The apartments each occupy one floor, with the bottom apartment having access to the garden. The garden is framed by a 2.5-meter-high concrete wall. The first and second floor apartments can be reached via a staircase situated outside the concrete wall. Each apartment has a furniturelike module that contains bathroom, storage, and kitchen amenities.

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