Brussels-based practice Notan Office has completed Duchesse, a series of homes set around a shared garden on the Place de la Duchesse de Brabant in Molenbeek. The project, which called for six apartments and two houses, is located in a densely built-up urban complex that hosts two industrial buildings and a mansion originally built in the 1880s. 

The studio was commissioned to turn the site into a housing complex of various types to create the feeling of being in a “micro-city.” Studio founder Frédéric Karam told Dezeen, “Since the site was almost entirely built before our intervention, we adopted a subtractive approach rather than construction. [This] led us to generate three distinct volumes, giving rise to the concept of a ‘micro-city.'” Using volumetric subtraction allows these three volumes, which are built around a shared outdoor garden, to be bright and airy. It also avoids having vis-à-vis that are too steep and a dwelling that is too isolated.

To complete Duchesse, Notan Office preserved the exterior of one of the halls while revamped the others with new tiled volumes. The studio renovated the townhouse and added two new volumes: one behind the hall’s brick facade and the other to the rear of the site. The first volume has crystalline white tiles cladding with its form paying homage to the industrial hall it replaced. The second is clad in red tiles and feature angled sawtooth roofs.

The house in white contain apartments while the volumes in crimson cladding is split into two houses. Meanwhile, interiors are minimalist with cement floors, walls in raw concrete block, and the ceiling in concrete slab. Existing materials both internally and externally were also refurbished including doors, windows, and moldings in the apartments and a winding outdoor staircase. The studio also added a terrace to the new roof. 

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Images courtesy of Notan Office