Project Description

The following text is the letter of motivation sent to the architects in order to provide background information and some guidance for the initial phase of the project.



The project pertains to the renovation/finishing of a recently built duplex apartment, currently in “casco” form[1]. The apartment is north-faced and located on the inside of an “apartment island”[2], very near to the historical centrum of Antwerp (<1 Km). The surrounding constructions (apartment buildings, mostly…) create a surprisingly quiet environment through the isolation of the usual city dynamics and noise.

In its current form, the apartment resembles a very solid shoebox, with illumination problems. The ground surface is roughly 90m2 per floor, with an additional 30m2 for a private garden. The ground and upper floors are respectively 3,85m and 3,10m high (from the concrete floor). Its shape naturally lends itself for a duplex loft apartment.

The first part of the project will take the shape of a mini-contest dedicated to the selection of the architectural concept. This will count with the participation of a small number of architects, mostly family and friends, which have gracefully accepted to contribute. The selection criteria will favor the owner’s budget and taste, over pure architectural considerations, since he’s literally going to “have to live with it”. The selection should take place by mid-July 2003.

Once the architectural concept is settled, the author is invited to participate on its concretization. The level of involvement is left to the author’s choice. Since most are non-Belgium residents, a local architect is available to assist on the necessary tasks. In all cases, the artistic authoring will be acknowledged and fully respected.

[1] The “casco” term, refers to a construction that is impermeable to cold and water, but without any inside finishing, i.e. only concrete floors, bricked walls, etc.
[2] In Belgium it is very common to reserve the backside of apartment aggregates for gardens or low height constructions.



Although Belgium is not Portugal or Spain, it does have better weather conditions than the UK.

In its current form, the apartment is somewhat dark, especially on the ground floor. All illumination is indirect, and originates from its (north-facing) windows. Each floor has 4 doors/windows plus an additional small window on the upper floor, east-facing wall.

The north-facing wall is within 5-10 degrees from the east-west axis.

The roof receives direct light from April to September for at least 5-7h/day.


Existing structures

There are some internal walls and an opening on the upper-floor for the placement of a hypothetical cylindrical staircase. None of these walls provide sustentation, except for the ones near the staircase opening. None of these needs to be included in the final project.

The floor is still in concrete, so that floor heating can still be installed.


Architectural Regulations

The city’s architectural bureau was very clear on the modification possibilities: “Be very happy with what you have now!”. Apparently, it is very odd that the construction was allowed in the first place, since the city only favors very low height constructions inside apartment islands. Even though it was built to replace an old construction, it still is too tall (8m).

In order to set the records straight, the city will refuse any modification that would increase the current volume or modify it’s external shape, i.e. it is not possible to add any roof terrace/floor, veranda, etc. They will happily accept any change that will reduce the current volume/shape : )

It is possible to remove part of the roof, eventually replacing with transparent material, as long as it doesn’t look like a new floor (or allowing for the existence of a new internal floor, i.e. mezzanine). A typical transparent roof can rise to about 1m from the current height.

It is not possible to introduce any additional transparent windows, outside the zones where they currently are. For example, it is possible to turn 4 windows into 1 big window, as long as it is restrained to the same zone where the original windows were. The above restriction does not forcibly apply to non-transparent windows, as long as they don’t introduce any fire hazard.



The budget is within the 50.000 - 85.000 eur bracket. This comprises the kitchen and bathrooms, but excludes any other furniture. The first 50.000 eur are readily available, and should allow the owner to move into the apartment. The other part of the budget should be available on a 1 to 2 year timeframe.


Owner’s taste and other considerations

I guess overcoming the illumination problem is quite important. I would like to have the feeling of living in a well-lit apartment. A varied distribution of light is always nice, as it would naturally create distinct zones within the apartment.

I like open spaces. Especially the ones that don’t take much space and seem to grow each time you look at them. Spaces with purpose...I don’t feel raw floor real estate is important per se, but should rather contribute to the overall living quality of the apartment. To this purpose, I’ll gladly consider loosing up to 60m2 of the original floor.

I like to feel nature’s presence and frequently spend a lot of time looking out of the window to the vegetation, the skies, etc. I think this is called the “looking cow” syndrome. Well, I have it.

What kind of architecture I like the most? Well, I’m quite ignorant about architecture, which severely limits my taste. That considered, I’m a big fan of simple things. I tend to prefer works guided by simplicity of form. Maybe that’s related with my perception of Nature, where simplicity regularly arises through complexity. I’m past believing it is so by design, but rather that simple endures.

I like cozy. Cozy and simple. Can those two co-exist outside this last phrase? ; )

Functional spaces I would like to have:
Thanks a lot for helping out, and contributing to this project that will greatly impact my quality of life in the years to come ; )

Marco Brigham


Appendix 1: City Map

This is the city map retrieved from http:\\