Beyond Buildings


Recombinant Imagery

Submit A Comment | View Comments

World Architecture News. Photo by: Christopher Frederick Jones


The Internet is a great way to hunt and gather. You can find all kinds of elements and recombine them into new things. This blog is about that. This last week, the Recombinant House by Riddel Architecture spread through the blogosphere. I must admit I had never heard of the architects, have never been to Brisbane (though I have been to Australia), and thus have not seen the house. But I feel I have, through media such as World Architecture News.


What makes the house so viral is the sexiness of recycling. The architects claim that the new house consists of a re-shuffling of an existing building on the site, as most of the wood and other standard building materials have been reused, leaving only 5 percent of the original construction to wind up in the dumpster. The house is also largely energy self-sufficient, opening itself up to what sounds like a paradisiacal climate, utilizing solar heating and passive controls.


World Architecture News. Photo by: Christopher Frederick Jones


What makes it work, though, is the imagery. The architecture is one of an open, warm-textured simplicity in which spaces and compositions flow into collages of large and small, open and closed, wood slats and white walls. There does not appear to be one simple axis or moment of symmetry in the Recombinant House. The continuous offsets and continuations of space look like they draw you through and out into the landscape—and at least they draw the eye that way. It all reminds me of the work of the (originally Australian) firm Koning Eizenberg Architecture, whose superb homes open up to the Southern California landscape with grace.


Enschede A/Zee


A house that is much more radical about its recycling is the Villa Welpeloo, which was finished at the beginning of this year in Enschede, the Netherlands. Though located in an area that has received a lot of attention (the site of a former fireworks factory explosion in which many of the best Dutch architects are now strutting their struts, beams and cantilevers), the house has hadly received any press here. Yet the goal it had was remarkable: to make a whole house out of recycled materials.


2012 Architecten, who have in the past repurposed truck tires and washing machines as building blocks, started with a steel structure salvaged from the casing of an old textile mill machine (Enschede was a center of the textile industry). From there, all the way to a cladding consisting of the slats of thousands of cable spools, they gathered together secondhand wood and even glass to build the substantial villa. The glass came from odd bins and rejects, and even the insulation came from a nearby building that was being torn down. The built-ins are repurposed office storage units, the floors and interior walls were made of parts of other floors.


The result is a building that, though it is handsome, does not have the sexiness of the Recombinant House. It is more compact and simple in its forms. It does not photograph very well. And thus the Villa Welpeloo sits buried in the Internet, its solid achievements serving as a background to the ether’s floating world.



Comments (3 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 2:09 PM Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    I bet the neighbors really love it....NOT! Looks like a kid's playhouse made of leftovers, which wouldn't necessarily increase local adjacent proerty values. I bet it will look even worse in a couple of years....

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: BloomingRock | Time: 7:39 PM Monday, April 26, 2010

    Aaron, another great article. Since most LEED-certified or 'green' buildings are nothing much to speak of aesthetically, I'm happy to see these 'sexy' innovative projects that feature recycling and re-purpose existing/used materials.

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 5:33 PM Monday, April 26, 2010

    cool! i wonder i my hoa would let me do that?

    Report this as offensive

Comment on this Post

Post your comment below. If you wish, enter a username and password though they are not required. Please read our Content Guidelines before posting.


Enter the code shown in the image

Username is optional


Enter a password if you want a username


About the Blogger

Aaron Betsky

thumbnail image Aaron Betsky is the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2008 he was director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale. Trained as an architect at Yale, he has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and design and teaches and lectures about design around the world. Aaron worked for Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates as a designer, taught for many years at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and between 1995 and 2001 was curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2001 to 2006 he was director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.