"celebrate change- architecture as an open source, a gift in which others are challenged to participate"

Karel Appelhuis

A house as a canvas

The Karel Appel House combines short stay apartment housing with a mini museum in collaboration with The CoBrA Museum and Royal Academy of Visual Arts. It's a tribute to the famous avant-garde CoBrA painter Karel Appel who was born in the Dapperbuurt and started his international painting career there.
The design approach for the interior was inspired by the instinctive work-methods of Appel, which can be characterized by his phrase: "I start from my matter- the paint and the canvas". In a similar intuitive manner, a spatial matter of paper-thin coloured steel panes is created, where living and exhibiting can coexist: A house as a canvas.


By opening up the standard floor plans and placing additional steel walls, DUS architects transformed the former 2-room apartments into spacious 6-room studios. Each 'room' can be used in different ways: One can dine, sleep, store, cook, have guests sleep over etc. The rooms are shaped so that the given standard 'short stay furniture' fits exactly. The set furniture can deliberately be hidden in each specific room or not- the choice is up to the inhabitant.


Walls, floors, ceilings and steel walls have intense colours, inspired by the art works of Appel. In the main rooms the walls are white. Coloured walls, ceilings and floors emphasize the extra rooms. Specific openings in the steel walls enhance the coloured coulisse-effect between the different rooms and stimulate multiple use. E.g. a dressoir in one room can simultaneously be used as a bedside table for the adjacent room, making use of the window in the steel wall.


With help of industrial magnets virtually everything can be attached to the steel walls, and the entire 'canvas' becomes useful furniture. This tickles the inventiveness of the residents: With help of a simple rope one can build a bookshelve! Also clothes, curtains, plants or paintings are easily attached. The magnets suit the idea of short-stay housing as every inhabitant can easily transform the canvas to his / her own liking. Over the years, more and more magnets will stick to the canvas and thereby tell a subtle tale about the house and its inhabitants.


Simple lighting brings the canvas more to life. One bulb in the middle of each room suffices. By switching rooms 'on' or 'off', one can create multiple light intensities. And transform a small room to bed- or reading lamp.


The (inter)national artists who will reside in the Karel Appel House are second year students of the Dutch Royal Academy of Visual Arts, where Appel himself also studied. The artists will reside in the house for 11 months. The last month of each year the artists will make place for a temporary mini-museum in the four apartments of the Karel Appel House. During the opening week of the house in April, the CoBrA Museum hosted its first exhibition featuring an overview of Appel's life and work.

Clients: dwelling corporation De Key / The Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten / cobra museum
Program: Four short stay apartments / temporary museum
Location: Dapperstraat 7 Amsterdam
Phase: Realised 2010
Project team: Hans Vermeulen, Martine de Wit, Hedwig Heinsman, Maja Gesar
Contractor: BK bouw / Fiction Factory
Photography: Theo Krijgsman