The history of our house begins over 8 years ago with the purchase of a plot of 8 meters wide and 15 feet deep, occupied by a dilapidated house and located in a narrow street in the vicinity of the Prinsenhof. A quiet neighbourhood in the heart of Ghent, where children still play in the street. Although we knew the work of Marie-José Van Hee and appreciated her oeuvre, we initially knocked on the door of another architect friend.
The location, however, came with a few unexpected, unfavorable properties: the marshy ground and the difficult accessibility would rise the cost considerably; demolishing the existing house was less evident since remains of a 16th century house were found, the first design contained a garage which – after regulatory changes - would be not approved anymore in such a narrow street. During an evening walk, when the option of selling back our land seemed inevitable, I suddenly found myself for the first time at House Braet/De Paepe in Ghent. Immediately I recognized by style of Marie-José Van Hee and was again struck by the distinct qualities of her work. I thought of Giorgio Morandi, the Italian artist who kept using the same theme to explore the boundaries of pictorial art. The same evening we came to the conclusion that if the building process would require such major efforts, we eventually would like to live in our dream house. A few days later we contacted Marie-José Van Hee.
We agreed to meet on the construction site and made our wishes known. Afterwards we also visited the house of the architect, around the corner. Our last doubts disappeared immediately. We passed the most difficult treshhold, the ice was broken. The following months we waited anxiously for the first draft.
The basis of that first draft was not changed much afterwards, it amply surpassed our expectations. We made a model and realised that what looked so simple on the plans, proved to be much more complex. Marie-José kept enhancing the design and at every meeting she enthusiastically explained a new idea or a better solution to a problem. This way, for example, the storage room under the office was conceived, which we so thankfully use now.
Even after having moved to the house for a while, we are still surprised every day by the qualities of our house. By filling the void between the existing houses, a visual tranquility was created apart from the silence of living which is so typical for the neighbourhood. The open space in front the house is a the possible car parking but also an extension of the garden while it creates simultaneously light and space in the narrow street. On one hand we have the seclusion of the ancient surrounding walls and on the other distant views of the surroundings. The beautiful rays of light bring the rooms to life and the changing shadow play still amazes us. The integration of the circulation never makes us feel fenced in, despite the limited surface and the redivision of the rooms. After work we can enjoy the pleasant evening sun in our garden and at night moon slowly sliding past the bedroom windows.
CREDITS: Program: Private house Client: Private Location: Ghent, Belgium Project Team: Marie-José Van Hee (architect), Filip Reumers (project architect) Structural Engineer: BAS (Dirk Jaspaert) Photography: Kristien Daem translation: Frederik De Smedt