New angle on existing homes

Friday 23 Aug 2013

Vacant Piet Blom cube project in Rotterdam transformed into home for prisoners

After thirty years of vacancy, Supercube, Piet Blom’s well-known cube complex in Rotterdam, has undergone a major transformation project by Personal Architecture. Under the guidance of the Exodus foundation the Cube has now been inhabited by 20 delinquents in the final stage of their detention.

Since its completion in 1982 the Supercube has been mostly vacant; some parts of the building were never fully completed. According to the architects, Sander van Schaik and Maarten Polkamp: “The building was dark, it warmed up quickly and there was no relation whatsoever between the floors.” For the architects, these were not considered the ideal circumstances for the new function either, where transparency, social control and facilitating encounters between its inhabitants are vital conditions for the success of re-integration.

The discontinuity between floors, the slow vertical progress and the dark, inconvenient middle floor were considered the three problematic issues in the original building. To carry out the proposed program - a 20-room residence complex - these issues were tackled by means of a single intervention. To this end, a rectangular shaft has been inserted into the heart of the building, creating a void of 3m x 3m throughout the entire height. The void raises the transparency and coherence of the building and adds a great deal of sunlight from the tip to the underlying levels.

In addition, the element plays a part in thermally regulating the building; the ‘chimney effect’ created by the new shaft, means cool air from the underlying floors rises up and cools the warmer tip of the cube. Several functions such as the reception area, pantry, laundry / bathrooms, storage and kitchen are located inside the shaft wall. Furthermore, this ‘service wall’ supports the stairs that wind up through the floors.

Placing this new function within a tight community like the cube complex was a daring enterprise but it is hoped that the Exodus foundation and its inhabitants will have a positive influence on the atmosphere of the total complex and that the social control and overall supervision will increase. Co-operations between the Exodus foundation, the inhabitants of the regular dwellings, volunteers and the companies in the surroundings are gradually taking shape.

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