The best kind of weird architecture is the one that pops out between normal houses in average neighborhoods. The Bolwoningen in ‘s Hertogenbosch are prime proof: between rows of unassuming suburban homes sprout 50 ball-shaped dwellings, like mushrooms in a field.
They are actually inspired by the sun, and the planets. The architect Dries Kreijkamp had a reasonable argument – if all forms of life live in a sphere, then why couldn’t homes be built in the same way? Geometrically speaking, the globe combines the biggest possible volume with the smallest possible surface area.
The homes are meant for single occupancy, not for families and kids. They are identical in design: a plinth base, with a stairwell that rises to the first level, the bathroom, and above it the bedroom. The main area has a kitchen and living room, all together covering 55sq/m. Pivot windows face south east for maximum exposure, and on the top is a skylight. Most residents live the same way: storage and washing machines by the front door, decorated gardens, nearly lined trash cans, most windows covered from the bright sun.
For all its futuristic otherworldly style, Kreijkamp studied the simplicity and timelessness of African hut villages and Eskimo igloos when he designed the Bolwoningen in 1984. He was convinced this was the beginning of a revolution, a whole new inspired way of living for the masses. Eventually, everyone would live like this. The idea never gained traction, and these houses are now a relic of one man’s dream.
But when you walk through the village, surrounded by enormous spheres like planets circling around you and the quiet individualism of each identical home, it’s not hard to see the hope and vision behind it, with your perfectly round eye, beneath the perfectly round sun.