A Mastaba, meaning “house for eternity” in Ancient Egyptian), is an archetypical flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides. Atelier refers to a place as an empty space that can be worked towards a personal space. The atelier refers as well to the idealistic place with a view, plentiful of light, space and warmth, in which attractive and sustainable living and working is available for all types and kinds, including the artist who may be financially poor, but has a rich imagination and sensibility.
To make this ideal space available for everyone, the basic needs should be fulfilled, and all further extra’s only as option.
As an artist I have lived and worked in a diverse range of spaces and places. Thinking about an ideal place to live has not so much to do with being wealthy and very much with being clear about ones needs. From my personal experience, I know I thrive well in a place with enough (head) space, light and floor-heating. Next to these basic – material – qualities, the feeling of being part of a local community and ‘the world’ in combination with a sense of protection from and connection with nature makes an ideal habitat. Ideal yet not utopian.
The form of the Mastaba is the starting point where to work from and is made of a strong and affordable construction in which units are placed. These units have partly high ceilings, floor heating and at least one side of glass. There is an inner, in-between and outer part in each unit made of movable elements, to open and close the spaces. The inner part is relatively small, yet very well protected, warm and safe. It is where one feels private and has maximum comfort in terms of warmth, silence and personal care. The in-between part is more open, and functions as a space between public and private. This space can be an inner garden, a workspace / atelier, a greenhouse or else. It is light and spacious. The in-between is standard build with low-cost materials and constructions, but depending on the financial capabilities, could be ‘upgraded’. The space functions as both a thermotic and social layer of insulation. Then there is the outer part that is shared with the neighbours, a social place to sit, walk, eat and talk.
The technical construction of the Mastaba Atelier as well as the units should be affordable so the basic cost for space, light and heat is low. The focus is a basic 100m2 for 125.000 or less. This basic space is available for every type of income ans can be developed further depending on a persons own capabilities, practically as well as financially. It would be ideal if there is a possibility to offer a mortgage guarantee for those interested who don’t have the ability to get a mortgage, but earn enough to pay the monthly costs. And as well as to offer a group-mortgage, in case different people choose to live together. Thus creating a possibility to have an highly diverse collection of people with their own ideas and backgrounds living together, creating a chance to widen horizons. Plus giving all inhabitants a responsibility for the building. A unit can function as house for a family, as house to work and live, or as communal house for multiple people or families, sharing a toilet and kitchen. Permanent sublet is not possible.
Though the basic plan is just an outline to connect a broad array of personal preferences with communal possibilities, further details need to be developed. For example interior modules in which kitchen, toilet, bedroom and closet are made of one block, being able to offer affordable comfort and flexibility for those interested who are not able to either build the interior themselves or have the means to hire a designer. Or a system of window-walls that can be closed and opened: a layer of transparency and a layer of blinds, so many options, depending of the time of the day and the needs, are possible. Apart from these flexible elements, after the units are placed, there is an option to place walls and doors to make rooms or dividers. All standard in affordable yet elegant material solutions.
The use of materials and construction should be progressive in the sense that traditional ways of building that can be expensive, like using bricks, won’t be used for the basic structure. The use of materials is based on economic, structural and sustainable decisions. Through creativity and high quality design the materials will be used in an aesthetically pleasing and progressive manner.
An option to save on spendings is to rent out spaces for commercial businesses that don’t necessarily need windows like, for example, supermarkets, shops, parking, cinema or restaurants, to be build (partly) underneath the building. The plinths are (mostly) reserved for the units for living (and possibly working), so there is a social structure that flows into public space. On all levels there will be connections between the inhabitants by way of semi-public spaces that are not only corridors, but spaces to stay. Certain functionalities can be shared by like a washing space, workshops, guesthouse, a public (roof) garden to safe space and money.
Although mastaba’s often have flat facades and roofs this is not an essential quality. The idea serves as a starting point to make a building with an inward sloping gesture, subtly reminiscent of a mountainous landscape. The strict mastaba-form can be transformed towards a more surprising whole by playfully placing the units so the facade and roof are not flat or repetitive.
The goal of this plan is not to focus on one aspect or technique, but to find a way in which diverse needs and restrictions are woven into a fabric of solutions. It aims for attractive living independent of ones income resulting in diverse local communities. Currently there is practically no choice for low-incomes. Costs can be low by choosing only for the essentials and by being creative.