Piet Blom’s Kubuswoninginen – Cube Houses

rotterdam 30 blom

Dutch Architect, Piet Blom, had a different take on Louis Sullivan’s maxim that a building is a tree – a slightly more literal one.  He created this apartment block in Rotterdam out of individual cube shaped houses mounted on tree trunk like bases, each rotated 45 degrees up around one corner, in 1974.  To me, the units have little visual relationship to trees or forests but I do love the twist (oh, pun not intended) on the standard boring cube shape dictated by modern building materials.  Most residential spaces built in the last half century are boringly rectilinear and constrained by the construction simplicity dictated by pre-fabricated building materials.  These spaces are anything but conventional.  A small museum allows the casual passer-by access to one of the units and I took full advantage, wandering around with camera and sketchbook trying to absorb the spaces.  Some work better than others, the living area, bathroom and loft like “leaf hut” atrium room at the top feel awkward and contrived but the lower half of each cube, where the walls slant outward, contains some very interesting spaces. I was totally charmed by the tight but functional seeming kitchen layout.

Design website, Design Almic, includes a short bio with their write up of the building: “Piet Blom (Amsterdam, February 8th, 1934) grew up in ‘de Jordaan’, a working class district where life takes place on the streets. In ‘de Jordaan’ Blom developed his perception on work and living.”  I find this sad – clearly the busy bustling street environment Blom is credited with envisioning here, hasn’t come about.  The Cube House development is notably devoid of business spaces.  Having spent a pleasant time wandering in de Jordaan, I can picture what he might have had in mind – kids playing, adults chatting and small portable businesses carrying on.  Residents resting on their steps to keep an eye on the bustle below.  I can’t help but feel that the fault lies with the designer – other near by areas do have cafe seating and populous street markets but there is no infrastructure for public space in this design.  The empty ground plane made for nice uncluttered photographs in my camera but not a lot of desire to linger on my part.

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