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Bolwoningen Sphere Houses

Bolwoningen is a futuristic reality born from Dutch ingenuity to solve the housing crisis that arose from the destruction of World War II. Personifying a minimalist approach to domestic life, the spherical domiciles protrude from their suburban context to fundamentally alter residential living.

Bolwoningen home in wooded landscape.
With a raised orb on a stalk with adjoining shed, Bolwoningen translates to sphere house. Photo courtesy of Erik Wannee, CC BY-SA 3.0

Growing backlash against banal post-war residential developments led the Dutch Ministry for Housing and Spatial Planning to establish an Experimental Housing subsidy scheme in 1968. Through the 1970s the scheme funded the construction of the famed Cube Houses in Helmond, and later Rotterdam, and Kasbah Stilt Houses in Hengelo¾all designed by Piet Blom. Bolwoningen, conceived by artist and sculptor Dries Kreijkamp, is distinguished from these other modernist landmarks by the suburban backdrop of 's-Hertogenbosch. Yet, the provincial context forced Kreijkampm to adapt his original design. Ultimately a stalk was added to the living bulb and the base material changed from light-weight polyester to two layers of concrete with rockwool insulation to appease fire regulations. Bolwoningen was completed in 1984 with the first residents, including the designer himself, moving in. The Experimental Housing subsidy scheme would end the same year, leaving Bolwoningen the last realization of the program. Kreijkamp would continue to market the designs as a housing solution, hoping to generate mass production appeal.

's-Hertogenbosch is a mid-sized industrial city that grew outwards in neat rows of pitched roof houses before being rebuffed by the River Meuse. Carved out of this landscape, a series of quintessentially Dutch canals offer much needed greenspace to the dense Maaspoort neighborhood. 50 bulbous houses of Bolwoningen dot the banks of one of these canals with lush foliage framing the raised white spheres. A winding path makes its way through the cluster to the canal, creating an intimate and unique entry for each home.

Bolwoningen home in wooded landscape, fall.
A winding path creates an intimate and unique entry to each of the 50 bulbous houses. Photo courtesy of jjvvhh via Flickr

Aptly named, Bolwoningen literally translates to sphere house and consists of a raised orb on a podium or stalk with adjoining shed. Instead of conventional divisions, a spiral staircase connects the building’s three mains floors, the first floor bedroom, second floor bathroom, and top floor living space. Each home has six round pivot windows, one each for the bedroom and bathroom, and four on the top floor for the greatest freedom of vision. The interconnected layout allows the interior to be flooded in natural light, enabling the space to feel bigger than the paltry 55 square meters. Bolwoningen has been continuously occupied since the community was first constructed.


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