The Tree

The Tree is a new shelter for homeless families in the Netherlands and fulfills a specific gap in the growing need for shelters with specific target groups. This ‘mega-house’ was completed in 2013 and opened on the 29th of October. Homeless families can seek shelter in a protected environment for a period of up to 9 months, supported by the welfare services on site. A large proportion of tenants are single-parent families with young children. The Tree is an efficient and sustainable building which houses 30 residential units and 400m2 of collective and welfare facilities with a high emphasis on privacy, safety, self-sufficiency, social interaction and reintegration into society. The Tree is focused on the 150 year old beech tree which stands on the site as a witness of history and as a protector for the future.

The local government initiated this project with the ambition for a flexible building that would be able to serve a variety of (social) housing programmes over a long period of time. In 2012 the Co-making department of housing corporation Ymere collaborated intensively with Angie Abbink X Co architecture and the contractor Thunnissen to fulfil the ambition of designing & constructing a higher quality with lower costs in a shorter timeframe compared to a traditional procedure. The mega-house was completed in 8 months.

Tree & Building
 The orientation and positioning of the building was specifically adapted to save and utilize the merits of a forgotten tree on the building site. As a result, a magnificent 150-year-old red beech tree now stands in the walled garden as a witness to the past and as a protector for the future. The delicate balance between creating a protected environment and the necessity of social reintegration is physically and symbolically represented by the preservation of the tree. Keeping young and old in mind the collective living room on the ground floor spills out onto a mega-porch and garden which is dominated by the tree and a view of the outside world. The tree is circled by a simple object which incites interaction and play while protecting the roots of the tree in all seasons.

The theme of protection , change and optimism is continued in the appearance of the building which is covered with a patterned skin of green-grey slates and sparkles of stainless steel, welcoming the families ‘home’ in difficult times .

The mega-house
The protected environment starts beyond the entrance hall of the mega-house. Only families and welfare employees can move freely beyond this point. The ground floor houses the communal living room, a large kitchen, the welfare services as well as practical facilities such as laundry, storage, refuse and installations. The communal spaces and welfare offices are separated only by glazed partitions allowing for an open and visual interaction and a view through the building from the garden to the surrounding nature. Both the living room and kitchen open onto the covered mega-porch which is the real heart of the building where everyone in the building can relax, meet and play. In the interest of social integration the ground floor is also specifically suitable for community oriented activities and festivities.

The three top floors each house 10 living units of 2 to 3 rooms or 30m2 to 40m2. Each mini-home is self-sufficient and can house 2 to 7 family members. The meter cupboards and service shafts are integrated in the prefab sanitary units which also contain an oversized shower, suitable for baby baths. The welfare organisation supplies the basis furnishings of the units which the inhabitants then turn into ‘home’.