Known for both its iconic medieval and modern attractions, large marketplaces, and a vibrant atmosphere enhanced by its large student population, the Belgian city of Ghent hosts a gem of a residence in Wachtebeke, that is both a minimalist masterpiece and a green oasis amid the charged hustle and bustle of cities. Designed by architect Machteld D’Hollander, this development named Martelaar House brings all the elements of green living inside a home that stands in stark contrast to its surroundings.
Completed in 2022, the 105 square meter Martelaar House is as much a verdant spectacle as it is a tranquil retreat right in the middle of urban developments. This gardenhouse work of art combines such elements as gardens and verdure flourishing right from its outsides into its inner spaces, enhancing its sundrenched tropical ambiance. The aura is the kind that brings peace of mind just a few yards from the concreteness of the city.
Transformation From Industrial Space Into a Serene Garden House
Quite like the green soul of a concrete jungle, Martelaar House details the transformation that a building can undergo; from its previous industrial aspect, into a hospitable pad that radiates both suavity and serenity. The house is a result of quite extensive renovation done on a carefully ‘demolished’ industrial building.
D’Hollander, the architect, definitely had in mind and understood what the benefits of greening a setting are. She was cognizant of the idea of the power of trees, plant life, and green spaces in urban settings and hence in partnership with landscape designers Bart & Pieter, sought to bring out this idea in all its glory.
The end product of their work is a renewed space full of flora, all the while attempting to preserve some bits of originality in some of the edifice’s initial structural heritage. In its makeover, two semi-transparent garden pavilions were built on the space in addition to the original structures, and then greenery was incorporated.
The result has been nothing short of an aesthetically pleasing feast for the eyes and relaxation for the body, soul, and mind. The structures and the vegetation merge to create quite an aura that is calm and serene for the inhabitants of the house.
Yet, even with the renovations, the design of the home still bears some elements that are reminiscent of the building’s former industrial self. It still has some of its original battered walls partially obscured by the plant life as though attempting to hide the age-old markings of their wear and tear.
Trees and Gardens in Place of Concrete Walls That Defined the Original Building
Apart from the house itself, the renovation project also incorporated an additional two fashionable garden pavilions, with plants and trees thriving in place of the hitherto hampered structure.
In its design, Martelaar House’s structure appears quite like something in between a garden and a house - not altogether a garden nor is it entirely a house. It has elements of both melded into each other creating a perception of a house in a garden (or a garden in a house). In essence, this garden house has different plants growing both inside it and in the spaces immediately outside it.
In addition, the designers used walls and pavilions to shape individual garden rooms, each maintaining its own unique ambiance and the spaces acting as both a barrier and a window, and creating views for different preferences and functions.
This is a design principle that looks to play with one’s imagination in that the views are variably ‘open’ or ‘obscured’ depending on one’s position. A wall, in actual fact, is not a barrier in this case as it creates different views that seem to play hide and seek for different individuals, and purposes.
Trees and Plant Life Have Many Benefits in Urban Homes and Buildings
Integrating trees and plant life into urban homes is an approach that yields many benefits for both the environment and the well-being of the people living in these areas.
Trees and plants help filter pollutants from the air by absorbing gases like carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They also trap dust and particulate matter, leading to cleaner and healthier air in urban environments.
In addition, they provide natural shade, reducing the urban heat island effect. Their presence similarly helps lower temperatures by providing cooling through shade and the process of transpiration, where plants release water vapor into the air.
Moreover, interacting with nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Further to these, trees and plants around urban homes provide opportunities for relaxation, contemplation, and recreation, contributing to residents' mental well-being. They also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store carbon in their biomass.
Generally, the presence of greenery enhances the visual appeal of urban areas, making them more pleasant and inviting. Trees and plants often soften the harsh outlines of buildings and pavements, creating a more congruous atmosphere.
Well, these may have been some of the benefits that the designers and proprietors of this private Ghent residence had in mind when developing this architectural creation that is worth the peace and pleasantness that it offers.
Images by Carpenters District.