The client bought us an unusual framework for this project. The ground floor served as his office and he wanted to transform the top floors into a duplex apartment. Two architects had made proposals before us, but the client was not satisfied with the interventions. He also liked the idea of recycling building elements.

The existing outer shell was empty, and the floors were built for the expansion of a store that never came. The shape was irregular and lacked any connection with its context. It was only postmodern form, without content.

We started resolving the equation by moving the entrance of the offices to the side so the apartment could use the curtain wall for ambient daylight. This drastically reduced construction costs since we could use the existing atrium as a central entrance to the house. The integration of the former storefront also strengthens the building’s relationship with the street while creating a division between the private and public spaces.


Inside, a new direction was introduced, coinciding with the dominant view towards the open landscape in the back. The existing framework was used for boundaries of different zones, creating separate atmospheres whilst keeping the open view. A wavy polycarbonate wall becomes the filter towards the street and a pivotal mirror disconnects the front with the back of the house.

Our initial design process was as good as completed when we were invited by the client to his warehouse. Some people collect works of art, others collect stamps. Our client collected building materials.

In the course of years, he had managed to bring together a varied collection through second-hand websites and auctions: the kitchen, the parquet, the work surfaces, the multiplex panels, the gas fireplace and the lighting - everything was reused.

190118 HCB section_3-01-01-01.jpg

In contrast to the usual course of events in which specific reusable materials are searched to be able to realize a design, in this instance the design was modified in order to be able to build a home with the already available recyclable materials.

Targeted use and reuse of available resources and space was now the leitmotif in the design of this house. The thoughtful application of the reused materials created a room of possibilities for a constantly changing relationship with the context. At the same time, the openness and choice of construction elements like the wavy polycarbonate wall allow for new interpretations of the space in the long term, providing the tabula rasa for diverse and numerous functions, for future needs and desires.


project: House HCB

team: de baes 

location: Bellegem, Belgium

status: built

year: 2017

program: residential

all photographs © johnny umans