Deep in dunes: Belgian firm OOA creates a seaside shelter with a secret

A modern house sits on the Belgian dunes, surrounded by low greenery. A rectangle-shaped house has floor-to-ceiling windows that cover the entire wall. Terra extends over the dunes, and a man is standing on it.
Office O Architects’ Villa CD – located in Belgian dunes near Oostduinkerke – features a plateau structure that extends out beyond the property, creating two open terraces at the front and the back
(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

A brutalist villa with a secret sunken storey has risen from the Belgian dunes near Oostduinkerke, a small seaside town known for its untarnished beaches and shrimpers on horseback. The family home is located within a community of bungalows built in the early 1960s, bordering a protected nature reserve on one side.

Strict building regulations specified the height and distances from the road and to the neighbours, while also requiring the structure to fit in with the residential style. Developing these guidelines into their design, Office O Architects (OOA) also had to meet their brief.

The clients, an older couple, had contradictory demands requesting privacy, yet openness and intimacy for their own living quarters, as well as space for their extended family. Magalie Munters, lead designer at OOA, describes the project as an ‘organisational puzzle’.

The floor plan of the house.

(Image credit: TBC)

Take an interactive tour of Villa CD

They came up with an architectural solution on which the whole property pivots: a concrete ‘table’ and a perpendicular wall at the front of the plot. ‘The combination of the horizontal plateau and the conical wall answers the different questions – structural, constructive, psychological,' says Munters.

The plateau holds the self-serving home for the couple, yet as it extends out the land curves down to open up space for a lower storey, housing two studios for their children and grandchildren. From the back of the villa, the building is a two-storey home, yet from the front it is a bungalow. Similarly, the conical wall has dual functions – operating as a shield for privacy, while its irregular openings bring in light, frame views and seen from the street act as a beguiling design feature.

‘The material choices were mainly guided by a distinct dialogue between the extrovert structure and the bungalow-typology,’ says Munters, who selected the piled white bricks, aluminium and tubular steel railings to reference the mid-century style of the surrounding area and give the home a ‘timeless feel’.

The photo is taken from an outdoor patio at night. We see a long window through which we see a bathroom. To the right, we see a balcony door that leads to the bedroom.

The studios each have private bathrooms and outdoor patios

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

View of the entrance side to the villa. Rectangle-shaped, all concrete structure, surrounded by sand and low greenery. The photo is taken at night, we see the lights are on in the house.

Irregular cut outs in the conical wall frame the home from the outside, while providing privacy for those within

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

A closer look at the villa. All concrete structures, surrounded by sand and low greenery. The photo is taken at night, we see the lights are on in the house through many windows of different sizes.

’The smooth concrete gave the structural principle a powerful and robust appearance,’ says Magalie Munters, head designer at OOA

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

The kitchen area at the villa. Concrete floors with white walls. On the right side, there is a white countertop with the sink area and brown cabinets below. The light comes in through a floor-to-ceiling window on the far wall, with a door that leads to the patio, and the skyline on the ceiling.

Minimalist interiors reflect the exterior design

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

The outside area is covered with sand. There are steps that lead to the second floor, and a white chain that serves as a rainwater drain.

A hanging white chain serves as a rainwater drain, while also creating a zen atmosphere for the studio guests

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

A concrete wall with openings of different sizes serves as a separator between the private area of the house and the street on the other side.

Cubist apertures in the conical wall offer residents a framed view of streetlife beyond

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

The bathroom is all white, with dark wood details. The bathtub is to the left and the sink area to the far wall, with a mirror above it.

Continuous materials create an atmosphere of zen inside the rooms

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

The external wall is built out of white bricks. Below the second floor which is covered by an all-around terrace are concrete steps.

Piled white bricks on the external wall reflect the typical mid-century bungalow style

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)

The villa photographed at night. Through the all-glass wall with a terrace in front of it, we see the dining and living areas.

The plateau protects the dune reserve below, which building regulations required

(Image credit: Tim Van de Velde)


For more information, visit the OOA website 

Photography: Tim Van de Velde

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.