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Of all her early projects this corner flat-cum-chemist’s is the most complex commission in view of the different preconditions dictated by both the client and the context of urban development.

The existing chemist’s is located to the left of the corner. One requirement was the integration of the two top floors, with kitchen and bedrooms, in the newly built section, provided a split remained possible at a later stage. At the right side the new construction is adjacent to an existing unfinished exterior wall. The multiple exposure of the building site has been fully exploited. The glass shopfront of the chemist’s being parallel to the street creates an awning, sheltering both the entrance and the night safe, a hatch for the delivery of medicines, from the rain. A parking facility for two cars is located between the chemist’s and the staircase leading to the flat. Part of the staircase is located outside, which both prevents people from looking in and reduces its length between entrance and first floor.

The lay-out of the ground plan breathes an almost self-evident clarity. Via the living room one enters a two-storey high dining room, adjacent to an ‘office’. This area can also be transformed into a kitchen at a later stage. As the front faces south, the dining room links up with a large walled roof garden. Via an open staircase, which puts extra emphasis on the central position of the dining area, one enters the library-cum-study next to the bedrooms. The unexpected solution for the facades also deserves full attention. At ground level the building ranges with the street, whereas on the level of the flat it recedes and functions as a second screen. Both surfaces meet at ground level at the staircase leading to the flat. Thanks to this solution the roof garden is accessible via the living room. On the first floor the apertures in the façade do not contain any windows, adding to the black-and-white contrast of the façade. On the top floor the façade has been faced with wood.

Bearing in mind the very specific requirements this project is undoubtedly one MJosé Van Hee’s most flawless spatial creations among her earlier work.

Marc Dubois

Program: private house & pharmacy
Client: private
Location: Wemmel, Belgium
Timeline: 1991 - 1993
Project Team: Marie-José Van Hee, Els Claessens, Tania Vandenbussche
Structural Engineer: BAS - Dirk Jaspaert
Photography: Kristien Daem