By Jody McCutcheon
A casual glance is enough to make your gaze linger on Villa Kogelhof. Located in Kamperland, southwest Netherlands, the architectural treat resembles a floating glass rectangle—the immediately visible part of it, that is. But look below the surface, so to speak, and there’s more. For starters, being entirely self-sufficient and energy-neutral, the minimalist residential home enjoys a healthy give-and-take with its surrounding environment.
The 25-hectare parcel of land is part of a larger, government-initiated program to connect regional ecological zones throughout the Netherlands. Before Villa Kogelhof was conceived, the property was farmland. In order to build the Villa, a promise was made to return the land to its pre-agricultural state; so before construction began, 71,000 six-year-old trees were planted on the property, with an eye toward a future “villa in the woods.” Now the land is a protected animal and plant habitat that’s also a local tourist draw.
Designed by Paul de Ruiter Architects, Villa Kogelhof measures 2,400 cubic metres and consists of two rectangular stacked volumes, one of which is buried underground. This area includes the main entrance, storage, bathroom, parking for six cars and a tractor (electric vehicles, hopefully!), and a workspace that overlooks a massive rectangular pond dug in the “backyard.” The aboveground, visible part of Villa Kogelhof—that stunning, floating glass rectangle—houses an open-concept living space separated by glass room-dividers into kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and a multifunctional area. These areas are furnished with designer classics from Le Corbusier and Eileen Grey.
The glass walls offer panoramic views of the landscape, plus they contribute to Villa Kogelhof’s energy neutrality. The climate façade, as it’s called, consists of an outer layer of clear, insulated, floor-to-ceiling glass, plus an inner layer of sun-reflecting fabric that can be rolled up and unrolled, curtain-like. Lowering the fabric creates an air cavity in which air is extracted from a central ventilation system.
Heat is provided by a central heating system in tandem with an air pump. Water is warmed through a biomass pellet stove, which burns wood cut from the estate forest. Photovoltaic cells on the roof generate electricity, as will a planned windmill. Garbage recycling completes the list of Villa Kogelhof’s sustainability tricks. It’s no surprise that the one-of-a-kind building was a recent winner of the Dutch ARC13 architecture prize.
With a stunning aesthetic and a comfortable interior climate for every season, Villa Kogelhof will please its inhabitants, while its energy-neutral self-sufficiency will undoubtedly please Mother Nature.
Images: Jeroen Musch