Century-Old Water Tower Is Transformed Into 2 Family Homes

This unconventional residence with panoramic views preserves the structure's original character.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture exterior

René de Wit

An abandoned slate mine turned into an amusement park, or silos converted into a home for newlyweds or even an interactive civic center — these are all great examples of adaptive reuse, where an existing building is repurposed for a new use. The process of adaptive reuse is generally greener than demolishing and building anew, not to mention the phrase "I live in a grain silo" more than adequately provides a doozy of a conversation starter.

Not far off from the genre of converted silos is this former water tower in Nieuw-Lekkerland, a village in the western part of the Netherlands, which was recently transformed into two-family homes by Dutch studio RVArchitecture.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture exterior
René de Wit

The ambitious renovation was done for two cousins, who were born and raised nearby. Both of them bought the property together back in 2013 when they were 21 years old. Since they only had a modest budget, they resolved to gradually transform it into a unique home.

In the years since, the two have married and started their families and are now raising their children in this extraordinary structure, which sits on a dike and overlooks a landscape dotted with windmills and a view of the local river.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture exterior
René de Wit

According to the architects, Ruud Visser and Fumi Hoshino, the project's main challenges included creating windows in the existing facade and how to configure the interior layout, all without losing the original character of the water tower, which dates back to 1915.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture exterior diamond shaped windows
René de Wit

As the architects explain, the situation had to be carefully assessed:

"After a thorough study it was concluded that the the diamond-formed windows in the facade are essential to the character of this particular water tower. These diamond-formed windows must be conserved. However the newly planned openings must not follow the same zigzag pattern of the diamond-formed windows. It was better to let the new openings 'dance around' it. The exact position of these new openings were defined by the housing plans."
Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture interior living room
René de Wit

The water tower's hexagonal diameter measures about 30 feet and has been redone so each cousin and their respective families has two stories of living space each — with one floor serving as the main living space and another floor as sleeping quarters. The redesigned scheme also includes a shared double-height garden room on the ground floor and a storeroom on the top floor.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture dining area
René de Wit

To keep in line with the architects' design aims of creating a home that "celebrates living inside this unique water tower," the huge, full-height windows have been placed strategically so that they emphasize views out over the landscape:

"Each section [of the water tower] has another view of the landscape. Walking around spirally through the tower opens up a full panoramic view. So, one dwelling is looking over the river, the other over the polder [Dutch term for low-lying land reclaimed from a body of water] and the garden-room is fixed to the garden. Each dwelling has its unique floor plan. The specific view dictates the orientation of the floor plan, and both construction and layout are shaped completely in line with this."
Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture kitchen storage
René de Wit

The large windows contribute immensely to illuminating the otherwise dark interiors with lots of natural light, thus creating wonderful spaces for these two families to enjoy.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture bedroom
René de Wit

Not surprisingly, the project's unconventional charm and focus on preservation got the attention of jurors who awarded the project the 2020 Dutch Watertowerprize, which is given out annually in recognition of the country's best converted water towers.

Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture view out
René de Wit

The jurors explained the reason why they selected this particular water tower conversion as the winner:

"The motto of the architects during the design process was: 'Do not change a water tower into a house, yet live in a water tower'. And this was exactly the strength of this transformation."
Dutch Water Tower family home RVArchitecture kitchen
René de Wit

There's a lot of clever creativity and innovation going on when it comes to adaptive reuse. Besides all the practical considerations it would take to make such projects work, perhaps it's also the delight of upended expectations that often occurs with such repurposed structures: users get more than they ever bargained for, and the building itself thankfully gets a second life. To see more, visit RVArchitecture.