Zigzag House by Jasper Smiths Architecture
Discover the unique Zigzag House in Utrecht, Netherlands, designed by Jasper Smiths Architecture in 2020. This modern minimalist house is a self-built narrow townhouse situated in a new residential area built on the site of the former Veemarkt.
What makes this property stand out is its innovative urban development and floor plan. With only a front garden, the 5.4m wide Zigzag House allows for a more agreeable floor plan. The concrete split-level house is divided into 8 floors, separated by a void and connected by a carefully designed wooden staircase. The void allows light from the skylights and landings to flood in throughout the whole building.
About Zigzag House
New Residential Area Built on the Site of the Former Veemarkt in Utrecht-Oost
In Utrecht-Oost, a new residential area has emerged, built on the site of the former Veemarkt (Cattle Market). On the north side of the area (construction site E), self-build plots of various sizes ranging from 5.4 to 8.4 meters have been released. Among them, ZigZag is a 5.4-meter-wide plot that stands out.
Urban Development and Floor Plan
What sets these self-build plots apart is that they only have a front garden, which is situated directly on the street, sometimes separated by a shed or workspace. This unique urban planning principle allows for a different ground floor plan. The 13.5-meter-deep garden creates sufficient distance from the street, reminiscent of the editor’s childhood home, where they used to enter the house through the backyard. In ZigZag, this principle is also applied, and because of the omission of the hall, the 5.4-meter-wide plot allows for a much better and more agreeable floor plan. Toilet, storage room, stairs, and kitchen are centered, creating sufficient width for a dining table or a seating area both at the front and the back of the house.
The concrete split-level house has eight floors, separated by a void and connected by a carefully designed wooden staircase. The void allows light from the skylights and landings to flood throughout the entire building, providing spaciousness to the floors. The common areas have been kept open to bring in the winter sun and let the warm southern light shine deep into the house. The window above the void provides warm light on each floor in summer, even on the north side. The large floor-to-ceiling windows on the north side provide a beautiful view of the greenery along the water. The playful route along the stairs makes the building surprising, light, and spatially attractive.
Jasper Smits built the entire house on ZigZag without a main contractor, and he aimed to minimize labor costs, the most significant expenses in construction. The strategy was to:
• Use large elements instead of small ornaments: One window per floor costs less labor than three windows per floor. A wall cladding panel can be installed faster than a brick wall.
• Avoid production on site, and use assembly: Stairs, cabinets, fences are all accurately measured, and all separate parts are made computer-controlled. Installation can be done quickly.
• Choose the right materials and utilize their qualities.
By building the house this way, Jasper Smits managed to cut construction costs while maintaining quality and creativity.
Photography by Jeroen Musch