Dutch studio Shift Architecture Urbanism has recently transformed an early 20th century townhouse into two high-end apartments by radically opening it up. Situated in the center of Rotterdam, the Matryoskha House was in a derelict state due the previous owner’s conversion of it into a sub-standard workers’ hotel. Bothered by the neglect, a neighbor acquired the property and gave Shift architecture urbanism the commission to give it an extreme makeover.
The house was stripped to nothing but it’s envelope and flooring structure, the later partly removed in each unit to create double-height living spaces. The private spaces are suspended in these tall spaces creating the matryoshka effect: a box within a box.
The lower apartment features double-height spaces at both the front and rear façade, isolating the volume of the bedrooms and bathroom as floating in its center. The two voids provide the living areas of this 14m deep half-basement level with plenty of daylight.
The upper apartment is conceived as an inversion of the mass-void relationship of the lower apartment. Here the bedrooms, rather than the voids, are placed against the façades, opening up a spectacular double-height space at the center of the apartment, brightly lit by a large skylight.
The historic elements of the street façade were restored. The rear façade was removed entirely and replaced by a portal frame construction in galvanized steel providing structural stability. A large sliding door and three floor-to-ceiling double doors ensure that both living rooms can be fully opened up towards the garden.
In the center of the apartments a single galvanized steel cladded volume incorporates stairs, toilets, storage spaces and kitchen equipment. A free-floating kitchen island finished in white tiles stands at the heart of each apartment. The interior of the house is a dialogue between old and new, contemporary and traditional, polished and rough, finished and unfinished. When possible original details of the old house were preserved.
Brickwork was left exposed and roof trusses left bare, stained glass window panes were restored and placed within new frames. Warmer materials and colors balance the use of reflective metal, concrete and black steel.
all images © Noortje Knulst