Huis aan‘t Laar

Huize Monnikenheide lies on the outskirts of a village to the north of Antwerp that is surrounded by a small forest. This social-profit organization is a laboratory for both (health and) welfare care and architecture. The campus stretches respectfully into the beautiful and dense treescape. Huize Monnikenheide is one of the leading pioneers in the ongoing destigmatization of care. The Huis aan‘t Laar pavilion (literally, the ‘House at the open space in the forest’) embodies the final keystone of this informally developed settlement. On approaching, a seemingly austere and orphaned volume appears through the slender pine trees. The cladding, made out of scorched Siberian larch, challenges the eye, blurring foreground and background but more importantly capturing and reflecting the gentle forest light into a clement silver haze.

To create a family atmosphere it is important not to exceed the number of eight cohabitants. So instead of opting for two smaller pavilions, Huis aan‘t Laar has been conceived as a single volume with a compact footprint and with two seamlessly merged condominiums, offering both groups a condition of living-apart-together. Nowhere on the inside – or on the outside, for that matter – does the building disclose its double datum, except for the split central stairwell where the two spheres inconspicuously swirl together. The plan’s irregularities are as much a response to the landscape’s found state as to the ambition of conceiving every individual flat as a kinked space with two upscaled windows, offering (at least two) distinct light conditions, views and living atmospheres. On the whole, this structure challenges the clogged institutional clichés associated with healthcare architecture and routinely taken for granted, deliberately leaving users and the occasional passer-by in doubt as to what is there.

  • Location

    Zoersel, Belgium

  • Client

    Vzw Monnikenheide

  • Invited competition


  • Completion


  • 51N4E project team

    Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, Peter Swinnen, Jan Opdekamp, Karel Verstraeten, Aline Neirynck, Paul Steinbrück

  • 51N4E involvement

    Full Process

  • Consultants

    Daidalos-Peutz (durability), IVW (safety & EPB)

  • Structural engineer

    BAS/ Dirk Jaspaert, All-Ingineering

  • Technical engineer

    Henk Pijpaert

  • Construction costs

    1.180.000 €

  • Programme

    16 units for assisted living

  • Site surface

    4.800 m²

  • Built surface

    1.320 m²

  • Photography

    Michiel De Cleene, Filip Dujardin

  • Image credits