Between the mountains of Oldenzaal and Bentheim, in a valley carved by the river de Dinkel, Valkenberg Estate sits in a picturesque, pastoral Dutch landscape.
Af Nina Tory-Henderson
This leafy, idyllic setting seems untouched by modern life, akin to a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting smattered with streams, hedgerows, thickets, and ponds. The clients have lived on this site for years, running a dairy farm. They know the land well and have formed it over time through their agricultural practice. The design of their home is centered on the experience of this landscape, melding everyday rituals of the outdoors with the domestic. The landscape appears throughout the villa in ‘multiple guises’, experienced and framed in different ways when moving through the house.
The procession to the home begins by a birch tree at the top of the gravel driveway. Here the building is viewed in full elevation; a striking yet quiet object of timber and stone standing alone in its field, framed by the dense perimeter of trees bounding the site. Following the fall of the land, the driveway descends between two elongated sandstone walls intersecting the ground plane. When reaching the entrance the surroundings are entirely removed — a space of seclusion enclosed by the sandstone walls and solid oak door.
Passing through the threshold into the double-height entrance hall, a six-meter-high sandstone wall is cast in natural light by generously proportioned windows. Just beyond is the hearth of the home, an open-plan dining room and kitchen encompassed by a panoramic view of the surrounding field. Here the experience of the landscape is one of ‘prospect-refuge’, enclosed by the low ceiling and heavy construction of the ground floor, while floor-to-ceiling glazing allows for full observation of the exterior. This is where the family gathers every morning and evening.
Upstairs the plan is compartmentalized, housing the more intimate spaces of a library, a living room, and bedrooms. The upper level frames the surrounding treetops through high-level windows with untreated oak framing. The first floor is a bright and soft environment with generous openings and light timber construction, punctured by double-height sandstone walls from the floor below.
The materiality of the estate is determined by its locality. The valley is known for its sandstone tradition, which forms the dwelling’s base, recycled from a nearby demolished house. Oak trees grow in abundance across the site, which the family felled and layout to dry for the construction of their home. The raw material palette provides a warm but robust structure that will age with grace.
Borrowing from the traditional local construction technique of the Dinkelland barns, the post-and-beam construction was entirely prefabricated with dovetail joints, allowing the structure to be assembled in just two days. While using local materials and craft, the interior spaces have a distinctly Japanese aesthetic: orthogonal timber frames infilled with various materials depending on the room’s function.
The new estate is also dedicated to the maintenance and development of the local ecology through further planting and the addition of streams and ponds. A herd of deer has found their new drinking spot here; their hoof tracks can be seen leading to a brook recently dug out by the client. This family home has been entirely conceived of in its relationship to the surrounding landscape — considering how it sits in and contributes to it, how it is framed from within it, and quite literally constructed from it.