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  • 11.22.10

Old Building Converted Into an M.C. Escher Madhouse [Slideshow]

Holland has produced some pretty weird design, but this rowhouse in Rotterdam is strange even by Dutch standards. You’ve got floors hollowed out in the middle and furniture chopped in half and an exterior painted entirely — morbidly — in black. It’s what you’d get if Rietveld had taken a crack at the Winchester Mystery House (only cooler).

Holland has produced some pretty weird design, but this rowhouse in Rotterdam is strange even by Dutch standards. You’ve got floors hollowed out in the middle and furniture chopped in half and an exterior painted entirely — morbidly — in black. It’s what you’d get if Rietveld had taken a crack at the Winchester Mystery House (only cooler).

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The house was designed by Studio Rolf.fr and Zecc Architects, and it’s an example of restoration gone batshit crazy. Rotterdam has a program where it sells abandoned buildings to people for a pittance if they promise to transform the places into single-family homes. Here, the designers took a decrepit, 100-year-old rowhouse and set about turning it into, as they tell it, “an architectural spectacle.”

Not only did they paint the exterior black, but they slapped a coat of shiny black oil onto the masonry, frames, and windows, the idea being to create “a shadow of the original facade.”

Indoors, they channeled their inner M.C. Escher. They ripped up the existing layout, leaving glimpses of the past — brick walls, floor-joist holes, etc. — then inserted a giant, geometric, wooden sculpture that rises through the four stories, forming seemingly impossible floors, stairwells, and walls.

The whole thing sounds studiedly eccentric. (The building’s name, the Black Pearl, doesn’t help matters). But the design actually makes sense for the people who live there. The house doubles as a work space, and the semi open-plan created by tearing out the old floorplates leaves ample room for a studio. The building also has a backyard and (sigh) a rooftop hot tub. Note to residents: We are excellent housesitters.

[All images by Frans Hanswijk]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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