Modern Prefab Goes Seriously Vertical

© Hans van Heeswijk Architects

Here's to the man who invented stairs
And taught our feet to soar!
He was the first who ever burst
Into a second floor.
The world would be downstairs to-day
Had he not found the key;
So let his name go down to fame,
Whatever it may be.

Oliver Herford (1863-1935)

Certainly Dutch architect Hans van Heeswijk owes a debt to the man who invented stairs. He puts five flights of them in his design for a tower-villa, a vertical prefab. Dutch houses are often very narrow and tall, with lots of stairs; van Heeswijk has taken the idea and translated it for America.

© Hans van Heeswijk

Lamar Anderson explains in The Atlantic Cities:

Like a downsized multifamily residence, van Heeswijk’s concept for a minimalist prefab dwelling reimagines the single-family home as a compact tower-villa. Each floor is dedicated to a specific activity (eating, sleeping, lounging, working), and levels can be added or subtracted to accommodate more or fewer functions. And in the absence of hills, the Meandering Tower House offers more expansive views—ideally of other tower houses.

© Hans van Heeswijk

One of the reasons we don't show as many prefabs as we used to is that they are, with a few exceptions, designed for low-density suburban and exurban sites. While van Heeswijk's renderings show these towers in the country, they could be packed together to achieve reasonable densities.

Living in a house like this would certainly keep the residents fit. I do wonder about the need for five toilets, though. Lots of people have to go to a different floor to get to a bathroom, including my kids. It's a bit over-plumbed.

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Tags: Green Building | Netherlands