Out There #4 Residential floor plans

This week sees the publication of Out There, De Zwarte Hond’s irregularly published bookazine that deals various themes in the relationship between design and society. As always, the content is the result of discussions among the partners, and with clients and specialists. These conversations offer new perspectives for our never-ending research into our own work and thinking, which are also part of this publication. The editor-in-chief role is played by two or more partners in turn, but we as De Zwarte Hond bear joint responsibility for the content of each number of Out There.

Out There #4 is a plea to make the residential floor plan a full part of the design assignment again. After all, in an increasingly diverse society, why should we settle for only two flavours – the single-family home and the apartment? This edition is therefore an appeal for better floor plans. 

You can order a copy of Out There #4 at the bottom of this page.

Nearly one million homes will be built in the Netherlands in the coming years. Drawings and plans are being made at a rapid pace in order to realize these numbers. However, in our daily practice we notice that the quality of homes is under serious pressure. We see that more and more residential buildings are seen as a means of housing money, rather than people. The floor plan in particular appears to be the victim of this, and housing quality is the loser. We can and must do better. 

We have therefore chosen the strategy of seduction, but one that is firmly embedded in a social view of our housing task. The main goal is to put the residential floor plan back on the agenda as a design assignment. We explore the question, link it with every other task, and look for alternatives to the cookie-cutter approach.

Of course, we don’t do this alone. Especially for this edition of Out There, two De Zwarte Hond partners, Henk Stadens and Lisa van der Slot, together with Peter Michiel Schaap of GRAS, held discussions with five experts: architect and researcher Glenn Lyppens (POLO Architects and the University of Antwerp) , anthropologist Irene Cieraad (TU Delft), researcher Jos Hesselink (Cushman & Wakefield), property maintenance director Maartje Brans (de Alliantie) and urban geographer Cody Hochstenbach (the University of Amsterdam). They led to new insights and inspiring ideas.

We delved into the history of the Dutch housing map over the past 100 years. In a timeline, beautifully visualized by Studio Nadia Nena, important developments and events are processed that have influenced the residential floor plan from 1900 to the present. A striking and hopeful lesson is that a crisis usually leads to innovation. The residential floor plan was always a built answer to a question. A housing shortage? Quick construction and home sharing was the answer. Labour shortage? Standardization. Oil and gas shortages? Sustainability in the home. In addition, social and cultural developments – such as the emancipation of women, decreasing family size and increased mobility – led to considerable change in the residential floor plan. This is interesting. What innovations will the current crises lead to? So, a timeline to learn from, and to use to philosophize about what is to come.

We very consciously place the theme of the floor plan in a broader context. First of all, because the best solutions are created collectively. In addition, we believe it is important that our housing assignment contributes to all the other challenges on our plate: from the changing climate to equality issues. This does not have to be an annoyance. Out There #4 has led to an agenda-setting call to embrace housing construction as a broad social task once more. A cultural challenge that is not just about quantity, but also – and above all – about quality. In this way, we can jointly – from client to architect, builder, government and residents – give a sustainable impulse to our enjoyment of living.

Readers of this magazine will, we hope, be inspired and quickly realize that,  with only minor adjustments, we can make our homes and residential plans a lot better, more fun and more pleasing.