A sculptural guesthouse pod by Atelier Vens Vanbelle appears in a Ghent garden

Belgian architecture studio Atelier Vens Vanbelle creates a sculptural residential outbuilding, the Alex Guesthouse, for a private client in Ghent

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle exterior
(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)

We all hope our houseguests have a positive and memorable stay, but the owner of a home in the outskirts of Ghent took the concept one step further by commissioning a bespoke folly in his generous garden, just for visitors. The architects, Dries Vens and Maarten Vanbelle, who head Ghent-based Atelier Vens Vanbelle, worked closely with their client, a film producer, to create the sculptural extension. 

The quirky structure serves as part-guest house, part-screening room and part-lookout tower, folding several needs and functions into a single, smart design. The space feels at once cosy and domestic, but also mysterious, striking a rare architectural balance. 

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle

(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)

‘The only criterion was that the guests had to remember their stay forever’, say the architects. The design team describes a walk through the addition as a ‘cinematic experience’; a fitting concept, in line with the owner's specialisation and passion. The freestanding construction, which is clad in profiled Corten steel, is built in LVL wood and was designed as a single piece of furniture, whose main living spaces are internally lined in timber.

Inside, the guest area feels like a snug log cabin or grotto, while a spiral staircase leads down to an underground, dark and moody cinema and bar room; and up to a quirky watchtower balcony that overlooks the garden and surrounding foliage.

A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Wallpaper* (W*253)

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle bedroom

(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle window

(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle main living space

(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)

alex guesthouse atelier vens vanbelle viewing room

(Image credit: Tim van de Velde)



Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from