The De Sijs condominium has cork-panelled apartments and common living areas

Two cork-clad apartment blocks surround a renovated 18th-century building in De Sijs Shared Accommodation project in Leuven, BelgiumDesigned by local studio Officeu Architects.

Located on a street corner on the edge of the historic city center of Leuven, the project combines 12 apartments and communal facilities around a central park.

The shared residence De Sijs in Leuven houses an 18th-century building

Project shortlisted in Residential Project Category for the Design Awards 2022It is designed to increase opportunities for residents to meet each other.

De Sijs is named after the café that formerly occupied the 18th century central building, which was reused as a communal living area and the ‘beating heart’ of the project.

Apartments with cork livery
The apartments have a cork facade

Officeu Architects explains: “Three separate building volumes are linked by an L-shaped rotation axis, located along the entrances to apartments and communal spaces.”

“The 18th-century listed building in the center of the circulation axis is the main entrance to the project and contains a communal dining space with kitchen, comfortable living space, fully equipped guest accommodation, workshops and co-working space, becoming the face-inviting of the project and the beating heart of collective life.”

The garden of the joint housing project De Sijs in Leuven
There is a garden in the center of the site

The thin gabled form of the old café stands in the corner of the site, with two six-apartment buildings on either side creating new cork-covered street facades.

At the rear of the existing building, full-height glazing opens the living and dining areas to the adjacent garden as the paved patio steps toward the lawn.

De Sijs Cork Facade by Officeu Architects
Each apartment has access to an outdoor space

Within the residential complexes of De Sijs, residences range from compact studios to three-bedroom duplexes. They are arranged so that each opens onto either a patio or balcony overlooking the main garden.

Cutouts in the front elevation of the blocks create spaces for external access stairs, allowing each apartment to have its own front door. The doors are hidden behind a metal wire railing that will eventually host the climbing plants.

Shared living space with adjoining patio
Communal living spaces open onto a patio

The wood and steel structure of De Sijs with simple backfill walls was chosen to create easily adjustable interiors, enabling early residents to customize their spaces during the design process.

“The condominium project differs in many ways from a standard housing project,” said Officeu Architects.

“Collective and personal interests must go hand in hand at all times,” the studio added. “To achieve this, future residents were involved in the design process from a very early stage.”

Wooden ceiling beams and ventilation ducts were left exposed in the short-back white interior, enlivened by colored tiles.

Waste cork panels cover the exterior of the two apartment buildings, aiming to add softness and warmth to the structures while storing sound from the road.

Apartment with exposed ceiling beams
Wooden ceiling beams exposed inside

Cork, made from the bark of the cork oak tree, has become an increasingly popular building material in recent years because it is renewable, resistant and insulating.

Other projects you use as cladding include Cork Screw House by Rundzwei Architekten And the Casa Bonjardim by ATKA Arquitectos.

Kitchen inside De Sijs shared residence by Officeu Architects
Colorful tiles brighten up low-back living spaces

Another project shortlisted in the Residential Project category for the Dezeen Awards 2022 is Stories in Amsterdam by Olaf Gebser Architects, Which also encourages community living.

a A nurse’s ward at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok By Plan Architect also shortlisted.

Photography by Stijn Bolert.

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