Bolwolingen Sphere Houses

Being described as living in your own bubble is actually an accurate expression if it just so happens you are a resident of one of the Bolwolingen Sphere Houses in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Holland, or Piet Blom’s Kubuswoningen in Rotterdam.

bulb shaped homes in Bolwoningen Holland Architecture
Photos of these globes popped up on Instagram, care of Dutch-Irish, Fabiénne O Sullivan; capturing arguably the strangest housing project in Europe. So we had to ask, what do the Bolwolingen Sphere Houses actually look like?

 

” Think giant golf balls, they are pretty futuristic but are actually houses that people still live in today”

 

Giant indeed, 55 square metres of living space within an orb made of fibreglass and toughened cement created by Dries Kreijkamp.  While not Dries’ original choice of materials, this compromise did nod to fire regulations and in the spirit of a golf ball on a tee, they sit on individual concrete cylinders.

 

dutch bolwoningen bulb homes

Dries Kreijkamp was a man ahead of his time, but also with a foot rooted in the past, a past filled with Sputnik, Echo 1, NASA’s inflatable Mylar balloon and living in the shadow of Expo58’s Atomium, just up the road in Brussels. It’s as if he wanted to anchor to the earth space-age ideas, reminding us that the planet was beautiful. Was his curiosity about the possibility of spherical living nourished by Hollands’ post-war interest in experimental housing projects? Government subsidies allowed a generation of creative architects to think out of the box, or should one say in this instance globe. It was a gift to the man who said

“We all live on a sphere, so why not in a sphere?”

 

Kreijkamp first thought of the concept in 1970, it took more than two decades for his dream to be realised. His training in art and design allowed him to feed his obsession for drawing spheres, early drawings show his experiments in developing them into a viable living space. For Kreijkamp a globe was

 

“the most natural shape possible, after all roundness is everywhere. We live in a globe, we are born from a globe”

 

What makes theses spherical homes all the more curious is the way they popped up like mushrooms in suburbia, and perhaps that old estate agents adage, ‘location location’ does hold true in this instance. Fabiénne, a fan of the Bolwolingen Sphere Houses, alludes to this,

“As an experiment, I think Dries Kreijkamp was a little off the mark. Architecturally I think they are wonderful, they have that SciFi, communist, futuristic brutalism about them which I adore, who doesn’t love concrete? They were built the same year as Piet Blom’s Cube houses in Rotterdam, but they don’t quite fit into a medium-sized suburb. Rotterdam was flattened during the war which gave it an opportunity to reinvent itself, the Blom cube houses fit nicely into the other oddities and extremes of modern architecture of the city. These are a lesser know oddity but a wonderful one.”

open window of a bulb home in Holand
Each home, a Bolwoningen to be precise, which actually translates as bulb house can accommodate up to two people who get on very well – there’s no place to hide in this joint. Over three levels there is a living room, a bedroom underneath and a bathroom, all reached by an internal spiral staircase. Round windows let light flood in.
inside a dutch bol house
Kreijkamp lived the dream in his very own bulb house in Vlijman, however, the attention the designs received came at a painful price, the Bolwoningen’s became more an object of curiosity, if you will, a signpost to future design. Kreijkamp set about preparing to roll out the design in large numbers but the orders just did not come in.  Time ticked by and weathering took its toll when the Bolwoningen project needed repairing the local authority turned down Drieskamps’ offer to build some new ones.

 “The reply was: We already have some, thank you very much. I found this shocking in its ignorance”

But a man with a dream can never be held back, and until the end of his life in 2014 the architect who dreamt out of the box kept on coming up with fresh ideas in experimental living.

As well as being a dab hand with a camera, she’s a cigar specialist, so naturally, we had to ask for the inside groove on her favourites. She shared as only a professional would ‘Cubans: Por Larrañaga, Partagas, El Rey Del Mundo, Cohiba and La Gloria Cubana. Dutch (of course), De Olifant,  Justus Van Maurik, Jacob Van Meer and De Huifkar.

Her list of must-see cities in Holland: As well as ‘s Hertogenbosch she added, Utrecht, Zwolle, Aalten, Leeuwarden, Doesburg and Rotterdam. “All wonderful places”
Fabiénne can be found on Instagram at www.instagram.com/fabiennekip/
Photos of the exterior of the bulb houses by Fabiénne O Sullivan © Photos of interior and blueprint by Super Formosa Photography Jaap Joris Vens  ©

 

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