Lofty prospects

Adaptive reuse often has to make the best of a bad situation, taking ill-shaped structures into workable residences … but in this case, the form of this 100-foot-tall Belgian water tower turned out to be the perfect basis for a brilliant seven-story house. Going … up?

In a small terrain of 16m width by 20m long in the middle of a flat Belgian landscape, raises a 30m high water tower built between 1938 and 1941 for and by the village of Steenokkerzeel. It has been in service until the beginning of the nineties and was used by the Nazis during the 2nd world war as a “tour de guete”.

The exterior of the tower was fully renovated to its initial state. Damaged concrete columns were repaired and painted, brick joints were completely removed and replaced and the windows in the floor top were enlarged.

Moving vertically through the home involves shifting from entry and functional spaces to living and dining areas and terminating in bedroom, shower and private relaxation zones that culminate in an extra-wide, 360-degree zone for enjoying lofted views of the sky and surrounding landscapes.

The first story contains a main entrance and two-car garage, below a second-story equipment, storage and HVAC zone. The third and fourth levels house guest, meeting and work spaces – the fifth features a master bedroom, with a spiral staircase that leads up kitchen, living and dining room areas. Finally, on the very top floor, there is a wrap-around terrace cantilevered out beyond the main structure (in the water-storage core).

Bham Design Studio had to work with local preservation efforts, building codes and the needs of clients to maintain the integrity of the building while making it a useful dwelling. Somehow it still manages to look a good fit for the farmland-filled countryside around it.

Built to last, the original water tower was constructed nearly seven decades ago. The exterior was preserved as best it could be, with the limited introduction of well-scaled windows and respect for the existing concrete and brick on all sides. The interior, for better or worse, was made more modern in style – black and white dominate, but perhaps that works well after all since it provides such compelling contrast with the colorful window-framed environments outside.

Every visible concrete element inside was painted in dark grey in order to mark the old from the new. This choice works in both ways since it makes the contrast created makes both bright and dark stand out.

2 – Guest room & office

An envelope inside the envelope. The combination of vertical and horizontal wengé surfaces delineates the guest’s bedroom area with its own bathroom.

3 – Bathroom

A central 4.5 meter high shower was created in the bathroom in order to maximize the water flow experience. Black tainted glass walls surround the walk in shower increasing the sense of intimacy.

Textile as visual separation from the cupboards was introduced to create a balance with the other “hard” materials and enhance the room’s acoustics.

4 – Bedroom

This circular room with a dome ceiling hosts a revolving stairs leading to the upper floor and a full monolithic mirror dressing witch reflects the surroundings and gradually disappears.

Wengé wood flooring contrasts with the cold nature of the mirror surfaces. Light reflection on the wood bounces providing warm reddish tones on the walls.

5 – Living room, kitchen and dining room

Impressive by its circular shape and large surface, the top floor affords some incredible vistas to the airplanes landing on the national airport just a quarter of a kilometer away.

The elevator block integrates a rest room, a library, the cat house and a cloak room. Above the sculptural kitchen furniture, a steel bridge takes you to the terrace.

6 – Panoramic terrace

The terrace provides a full panoramic view and is equipped with raised IPE wood flooring and a shower.

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