Drop-dead gorgeous floating glass box wins design award, is called sustainable

Villa Kogelhof
© Jeroen Musch via Bustler

The rich are different from you and me. Usually, if you want to build in environmentally protected areas, you have a problem. However if you are rich enough, and can hire talented firms like Paul de Ruiter Architects, this becomes just a minor annoyance. You might even win awards for it, like the Villa Kogelhof in Kamperland, the Netherlands just did, grabbing the ARC13 Architecture Award.

There is no question, it is a thing of modernist beauty, floating above the landscape. It is also considered "sustainable"; the architect writes:

Villa Kogelhof is designed based on complete autarky:[the quality of being self-sufficient] therefore the house is energy neutral. By using several techniques, the villa will have a comfortable climate all seasons, whilst being extremely energy efficient. It was an important wish from our client to create a simple, abstract, yet spectacular villa. The result is a composition; consisting of two square stacked volumes: one underground and one floating above ground. It is designed as an uncompromising glass box, supported by a steel V-frame.

There's a lot of gizmo green:

The goal for the villa was to be self-sufficient; to generate its own energy, to heat its own water and to recycle the garbage. To make sure Villa Kogelhof is energy neutral, the façade offers an important contribution. This so called climate-façade is composed of an outer layer of clear insulated glass from floor to ceiling and an inner layer of sun-reflecting fabric that can be rolled up and unrolled. When the fabric is lowered, an air cavity is formed in which the air from the villa is extracted of a central ventilation system. The house is heated by a central heating system combined with an air pump. Warm water will be generated using a biomass pellet stove, in which wood will be fired from the wood out of the private forest of the estate. Electricity will be generated from the PV-cells on the roof and in the near future also from the planned windmill.

The jury in the ARC13 Architecture Award loved it, and writes:

Villa Kogelhof is the unorthodox accommodation for an ambitious client with an unique architecture. The uncompromising design is a spartan interior coupled with a view of the stunning surrounding landscape of Zeeland. In addition, the villa makes a statement within a world of sustainability which is usually associated with eco-conscious tree huggers: but why should sustainability be no Prada?

parking© Paul de Ruiter Architects

Perhaps the answer to that question starts in the parking garage below grade. The concrete needed to build that six space garage, workshop and other facilities, strong enough to support a pond on top, is not without a big honking footprint. Putting a Fisker Karma in the driveway is as bankrupt a concept as Fisker is a car company.

Then there is the concept of energy neutrality and self-sufficiency; this is a perfect example of everything wrong with the concept of net-zero, where you can surround a house with four walls of floor to ceiling glass but if you have enough money for the photovoltaics, ground source heat pumps, a biomass pellet stove and your own private forest to grow the wood that you burn, then it is all just fine.

Like a Prada bag, the Villa Kogelhof is a beautiful and expensive thing. I love the architecture and the furnishing. If you want to build a big beautiful house in the middle of a field and go off grid, more power to you. But please, don't call a floating glass box of a second home that will need a staff of who knows how many to chop the wood to feed the biomass stove in an glass box "sustainable."

Drop-dead gorgeous floating glass box wins design award, is called sustainable
The jury asks: "Why should sustainability be no Prada?"

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