Koolhaas Houselife is a film about The House in Bordeaux, designed in 1998 by Rem Koolhaas / OMA. The centerpiece of this house is an elevator platform the size of a room which connects the three levels of the house, creating a fully accessible living space for the owner who lived in a wheelchair.
Unlike most movies about architecture, this feature focuses less on explaining the building, its structure and its virtuosity than on letting the viewer enter into the invisible bubble of the daily intimacy of an architectural icon.1
If you are going to watch only one of the previews, be sure to check out the second one – it’s full of moving platforms, automatic windows and glass walls, and self-retracting ceiling panels!
[YouTube Video: Koolhaas Houselife Trailer 1]
[YouTube Video: Koolhaas Houselife Trailer 2]
The married couple bought a hill with a panoramic view over the city and approached the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in 1994. The husband explained to him: “Contrary to what you might expect, I do not want a simple house. I want a complicated house because it will determine my world.”
Instead of designing a house on one floor which would ease the movements of the wheelchair, the architect surprised them with an idea of a house on three levels, one on top of each other. The ground floor, half-carved into the hill, accommodates the kitchen and television room, and leads to a courtyard. The bedrooms of the family are on the top floor, built as a dark concrete box. In the middle of these two levels is the living room made of glass where one contemplates the valley of the river Garonne and Bordeaux’s clear outline.
The wheelchair has access to these levels by an elevator platform that is the size of a room, and is actually a well-equipped office. Because of its vertical movements, the platform becomes part of the kitchen when it is on the ground floor; links with the aluminium floor on the middle level and creates a relaxed working space in the master bedroom on the top floor. In the same way that the wheelchair can be interpreted as an extension of the body, the elevator platform, created by the architect, is an indispensable part of the handicapped client. This offers him more possibilities of mobility than to any other member of the family- only he has access to spaces like the wine cellar or the bookshelves made of polycarbonate which span from the ground floor to the top of the house, and thus respond to the movement of the platform.2
Now that’s accessible design!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!