Psyche, Almere

Villa, Almere NL, Project Team: René van Zuuk, Client: Marjo Körner & René van Zuuk, Start of design: 1989, Completion: 1991-1992, Area: 105 m2, Volume: 370 m³

''De Fantasie'' is a residential area in Almere that was established through a competition organized by Stichting De Fantasie. The first competition was launched in 1982 and had the theme ''Unusual Living''. Designers could let their imagination run free because they were not bound by laws and conventions. The designs would have a lifespan of five years, so the rules of permanent residence were not applicable.

As two of the plots remained unfilled, the competition ''Unusual Living II'' was launched in 1989. t was decided to convert the five-year living period into a permanent situation. The ''Psyche'' design was the winning entry for this second competition.

The location of the plot, the neighbourhood of ''De Fantasie'', was at that time an undeveloped area on the Weerwater lake in Almere. Nowadays, with the evolution of the city, the plot is situated near the city centre and boasts particular qualities. The neighbourhood is established as a residential area that is connected with a loop-shaped route to the access road that leads to the residential neighbourhood further on. The plot of ''Psyche'' is situated exactly on the axis of that road. On the southern side of ''De Fantasie'', a wide canal marks the boundary between the living area and the open green polder land.

The living room is situated on the upper floor and glazed all around to make optimum use of the panoramic views. On the ground floor, the bedrooms, the bathroom and the toilet are separated from the entrance and the kitchen, by a circular arc of glass U-profiles that extend to the outside of the house. The path to and through the house is dictated by the curve. A visual communication is established between the living room and the entrance/kitchen area, through a void. Upon entering, the spaciousness is immediately noticeable, forming a contrast with the standard, narrow dutch corridors.

A visually dominant element is the roof-supporting structure. It consists of four trusses, shaped as stylized trees, made out of H-section steel beams divided in half, with an infill of welded web plates.

These steel supports are inlaid with computer-milled, wooden strips, and each one has its own shape. The four steel ''trees'' are distinctive because their ''crowns'' are all in line, but their ''trunks'' follow the arc-shaped glass wall. Apart from the roof panels, the trusses also support a wide gutter, ending in an ornamental open downpipe. The two roof parts seem to form wings, giving the house its name. In Greek mythology, Psyche and Eros were lovers. She was famous for her beauty and was portrayed with butterfly wings.

The final dimensions of the house are largely based on the roof panels, here applied as facade cladding. The size of the window strips in the front and rear facade, for example, is half the size of a cladding panel. The exterior curtain wall system is independent of the roof structure.

The implementation and building of ''Psyche'' was largely made possible due to sponsors who supplied the building materials. This peculiar way of ''private tender'' was facilitated by the fragmentation of the design in numerous materials and systems.