London firm Tony Fretton has sandwiched two rows of brick houses between a pair of canals in the town of Den Helder in the Netherlands. Tony Fretton Architects collaborated with Dutch firm Geurst en Schulze Architecten to design 16 houses for the Molenplein site, as part of a wider masterplan by West 8 that centres around the redevelopment of the town’s former navy base. Three-storey houses stretch along the front of the site, facing out across the dockyard, while a row of smaller two-storey residences run along behind and are separated by private gardens. Drawing inspiration from canal houses of the early twentieth century, the houses feature a mixture of linear and gabled profiles, and present both exposed and painted brickwork facades. Bright yellow doors and ornamental marble panels mark the entrances to each house, plus the windows come with chunky wooden frames. Each of the 16 houses has one of four standard layouts. There are few internal partitions and finishes, as the architects wanted to give residents the opportunity to design their own interiors.
Tony Fretton Architects is led by Fretton alongside partner James McKinney. Past projects by the firm include a Stirling Prize-nominated museum of fine art in Denmark and the Vassall Road housing project in south London. See more architecture by Tony Fretton Architects.
Houses in Molenplein, Den Helder, the Netherlands
Tony Fretton Architects has completed a new development of houses in the Dutch town of Den Helder.
Commissioned by Dutch developer Proper-Stok the development comprises 2 and 3 storey houses designed by Tony Fretton Architects and Dutch practice Geurst en Schulze Architecten configured within a masterplan designed by West 8.
Molenplein occupies a long site between two canals, the Helderskanaal and Werfkanaal, where it looks out onto Den Helder’s former Napoleonic naval yard. The development is part of a regeneration strategy by the municipality to attract middle-income people to the area following the relocation of the Dutch navy base. The Napoleonic dockyard has also been redeveloped, providing places for business and culture.
West 8’s masterplan for Molenplein preserves the character, scale and diversity of the city fabric along each canal; the plan comprises large three-storey houses facing the dockyard and compact two-storey houses to the rear, with private gardens in between, and intersperses designs by Tony Fretton Architects with those of Geurst en Schulze Architecten.
Houses designed by Tony Fretton Architects are distinguished by a simple profile and generously proportioned windows and entrance doors. The designs are abstracted versions of typical canal front and back houses and aim to reproduce the generosity of scale and abstraction seen in Dutch architecture from the Golden Age and early Dutch modernism. Materials comprise wooden window frames in facades of white painted brick or rose coloured brick with white pointing. A measure of ornament is given through the use of discreet panels of Belgian marble at eye level. In contrast the Geurst en Schulze houses have finely elaborated detail and provide punctuation in the terrace.
Inspired by the openness and energy that the practice observed in an earlier development they designed – De Prinsendam in Overhoeks, Amsterdam – where owners radically personalised their interiors, the houses are presented with unplanned interiors and carefully positioned service risers, fenestration and staircases that support a wide range of possible internal configurations.
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Den Helder, The Netherlands
Gross external area:
2,300 sq m approx
3,200 sq m approx
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Tony Fretton Architects
Tony Fretton, James McKinney, David Owen, Chris Snow, Chris Neve
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Geurst en Schulze Architecten
Masterplan & landscaping:
Ingenieursbureau Dijkhuis bv
Wolf Dikken adviseurs
Tuin Den Helder bv