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Architecture

Live in a Cube House- What Me? Cubes!!!

If you ever visit Rotterdam, Holland you should check out the Cube Houses. The structure of a Cube House is fascinating – but can you truly imagine yourself living inside of one of these cubes?

The Cube Houses of Rotterdam

Don’t be mislead by the simple cubic design – these houses are pretty sophisticated. Piet Blom, a master Dutch craftsman, built all 38 cube houses in the 70s and 80s. He called them the “Kubuswoningen”, which is the direct English to Dutch translation of “cube houses”. Each unit stands approximately 22 meters tall (a bit over 70 feet).

Cube Houses in Rotterdam
Courtyard view of Rotterdam Cube Houses.

Why a cube?

The Cube Houses of Rotterdam might look like tumbling dice but they are actually architectural marvels.

I have always loved the ideas of cubes. In fact, I remember carrying a pair of dice around in my pocket with me as a kid. Now, I would even suggest that cubes are generally really fun! Their geometric symmetry is fascinating and perhaps Blom was really onto something here.

Aren’t all houses cubes in a way?

Think about your own home or neighborhood. You are almost certain to find houses with some sort of cubic orientation. Intuitively, this design makes sense and has been widely accepted for ages. Most of us live in geometrically formed cubes or boxes.

Cubes and gravity

Gravitationally, right angles make sense for our homes because they have proven to be among the most stable design choices. And what a better design choice than a cube to fulfill the definition for a right angle, right?

Up on end – Cube Houses break the plane

What’s amazing about the Cube Houses is they are turned on their side (or at least appear to be). They use the trick of extending the beams to create cube forms that are upended. This is whimsical, structurally important to the integrity of the units, and part of the architectural vision for these homes.

Little boxes on the hillside . . .

There is a song written by Malvina Reynolds and made famous by Pete Seeger (in 1963) called Little Boxes that pokes fun at suburban tract housing, a far cry from our Rotterdam Cube homes. But even so, seeing them lined up one can’t help but think of the fun Reynolds and Seeger took in calling out the irony of modern living.

Pete Seeger singing Little Boxes, embedded YouTube

Pete Seeger and Folkway Records, no Cube Houses here

Seeger died in 2014. He is remembered for the huge impact he had on folk music, and for his political activism. Many remember him for his wonderful collection of children’s music American Folk Songs for Children put out on Folkways Records in 1953, and reissued a number of times over the years since then.

Would you live in a Cube House?

Yes? No? Maybe? Cubes are part of everyday life in some shape or another. But can you see yourself living in one because I know I might really have to consider it for myself. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Also, be sure to check out our other posts on architecture including our last post on Habitat 67.