Orleansplein 22B has been voted Student House of the Year, a joint initiative by Maastricht Housing and Observant. “It’s the winning house because of its good atmosphere, as if it is one big family. That is apparent from the road trip to Portugal that they have planned. They also want to put some of the prize money into decorating their house, in green, something I can appreciate. Moreover, they are the only ones who haven't received a yellow card from the police”, says Pascal Breuls, director of the Student Services Centre, who acted as jury and announced the winner. Three Maastricht houses competed for the first prize of 600 euro.
The winner: "Beautiful shit house"
Where: Orleansplein 22B
Who live there? Stella Ohlendorf, Malte Schneider, Lise Carlier, Alex Hartzuiker, Nora Christiansen, Hannes Kettner, Michael Dijkstra
Beautiful shit house: that is how the seven students refer to their accommodation on the Orleansplein. Shit house because some time ago, it looked miserable. Something that became much less so with the arrival of a new owner, they say. They now have a new bath, electric smoke detectors and double glazing. A beautiful ‘less shit than it was’ house.
The fact that the prize money will be invested in a road trip to Portugal that the present and former inhabitants will make, is illustrative of the atmosphere. The students have a bond with each other, “we live like brothers and sisters, we are really close,” they say. They have already made trips to the October Fest in Munich, to Prague, Crete, and Berlin. It is no surprise that they have a ‘strict’ selection procedure. Stella Ohlendorf: “There has to be a click with the new housemate. We invite all applicants to sit at the kitchen table and we ask some questions.” “In what age would you want to live, to mention but one,” Michael Dijkstra interrupts. “Yes, that is a good one, you always ask that one,” Ohlendorf laughs.
This afternoon, four of the seven inhabitants sit around the table in the large bright kitchen that looks out over the Orleansplein. Quite a lot of students live on the square and on the adjoining streets. Neighbours are not always happy with them, as appeared when action committee 'Buurtbalans' was founded last year. Campaigners felt that the maximum number of student houses had been reached.
The ladies and gentlemen at number 22B have never had the police knock on the door, despite the fact that they love partying. They regularly invite friends over, ten to fifteen, “which means that we can control the noise better,” says Dijkstra. He is referring to the “fairly” popular house parties of a few years ago, which were attended by some fifty to seventy people. “It only got that busy once last year.”
Although Chris Biesmans doesn't officially live on the Orleansplein anymore – he recently moved – he regularly shows up on the doorstep. This evening too, for the company. Alex Hartzuiker is in charge of the evening meal. “Pasta with tomato sauce, very simple.” The inhabitants – all studying at Maastricht University, bachelor's and master's, city centre and Randwijck, mostly from abroad – regularly eat together, and it depends on who wants to be the cook. The cleaning roster is on a pink sheet on the refrigerator: two people, once a week. The 80 per cent rule applies. “The cleaning has to be 80 per cent right, otherwise something will have to be bought for the house,” Ohlendorf explains. “Lately, this percentage has always been reached.” While photographs are being taken, Observant discovers a corridor leading from the kitchen to a bathroom with a bath. Two white louvered doors flap open. No lock? “No, your privacy is tested considerably here,” they laugh.
Finally, what's with the coloured markers on the map of the world? “There was a plan behind it once, but there were some shifts made during a party,” says Dijkstra. Ohlendorf: “Red is where we want to go, blue is where we've been, and yellow is where we don't want to go, right?” Yellow is difficult to find. There is one on Somalia. Red is in Cape Town, South America, on the East African coast, the Middle East and Japan, among others. Plenty of road trips ahead.
Crates of beer on the balcony, crates of beer in the corridor
Where: Bogaardenstraat 16c21
Who live there? Bart Bulté, Jack van den Berg, and Meeri Sillevis Smitt
“Bart is by far the neatest,” laughs Meeri Sillevis Smitt, student of Oriental Languages and Communication at Hogeschool Zuyd. “He is the one who gets us all together when it is time to clean. Then the three of us whiz through the apartment, which takes about two hours.” A little later, student of Medicine Bart Bulté comes in. So we can immediately cross-examine him. “Compared to other student houses, it is reasonably clean here.” Sillevis Smitt: “Even my grandparents say so. They live in Luxembourg and come to visit now and again, on their way to visit my family in the north.”
Anyone arriving at the front door of the apartment complex – won't find any bicycles, “they are in the bicycle shed” – wouldn't automatically think that this is an average student house. But once you are inside, the three-roomed apartment it is crystal clear: students live here. Crates of beer on the balcony, crates of beer in the corridor, a clothes horse in the living room, a sign saying ‘drunken people crossing’ in the corridor, a narrow kitchen with various appliances knocking about, plastic bottles, food and dishes left drying. The fire extinguisher in the corridor provides extra points. “The corporation, Maasvallei, installed it.”
“And what about parties and the relationship with the neighbours,” Pascal Breuls, director of the Student Services Centre and jury member, wants to know. “We recently watched the Super Bowl with a couple of guys from the association. We also had a beer tasting event and a toga party,” says Bulté. Breuls: “A couple of guys?” “Well, I mean, there were some twenty to thirty. On one occasion, the police issued a yellow card, when there were 37 people inside. Who called the police? No idea,” says Bulté. “We didn't hear anyone knocking on the door.” The yellow card works as a warning, just like when you commit a foul in sports, for example when you cause noise hindrance. The card expires after three months.
There is a mixed group living in the apartment complex. “Our neighbour is a Moroccan woman, we get on really well with her. Further along, a few students share another apartment. Downstairs, there is an older man. He is not always happy with us, for example when doors are opened or closed late at night - or if people walk in the stairwell in high heels.”
The three eat together, “when it so happens,” and usually in Bulté’s room because he has a table and four chairs. We take turns in doing the shopping. And what about arrangements on using the shower? “That just works out by itself,” says Bulté. “And having 'guests' stay over [read: potential husbands and wives]?” “I have a girlfriend,” says Bulté. Smitt, laughing: “No, we didn't make arrangements about that.”
“When Valentin gets bored, he starts cleaning”
Where: Heugemerweg 41
Who live there? Catherine Gilbert, Valentin Kuessner, Christian Stadelmann
The first thing you notice when you enter the apartment on the first floor, is the enormous V&D logo. And yes, there is a story behind it. “Friends gave us the ‘V’ as a gift for our house warming party, of course we then also had to have the ‘D’ too,” says Catherine Gilbert, second-year student of the Maastricht Science Programme. A nocturnal – and somewhat drunken – bicycle ride later, the ‘D’ was hanging on the wall. “Our one is from the front of the building,” says Valentin Kuessner, second-year student of International Business. “We also know the people who have the logo from the rear entrance.”
Three students inhabit the apartment – three rooms, a large communal kitchen/living room and a gigantic roof terrace. Kuessner has been living there longest. He renovated the terrace together with the landlord and painted the walls. He moved in with an Inkom girlfriend and Gilbert followed later on. When the former housemate moved out, she asked a fellow student, Christian Stadelmann, to join them.
“How is that, living with two guys,” jury member Pascal Breuls asks her. “You wouldn't believe how clean they are,” Gilbert says. “I am definitely the untidiest one.” The house is indeed very clean; there are even fresh flowers on the table. “When Valentin is bored, he starts cleaning,” Stadelmann laughs. Kuessner: “When I am not in the mood, I only need to think of how dirty the top of the kitchen cabinets was when we moved in – they had never been cleaned. Besides, it is a perfect excuse for not studying when you really should.”
But it is not just Kuessner who swishes a mop through the house; after a party – famous among friends – everyone hits the deck. “We can easily have fifty people over, certainly in the summer when we can go out on the terrace,” says Stadelmann. They already had a yellow card in the first month that they were there. “Then we kept things quiet for three months.” These days, there are posters hanging in the hall and outside on the terrace with Kuessner’s number so that people can call if it gets too noisy. They have never had any complaints after that.
The three housemates are really looking forward to next summer. “We have just bought a digital projector,” says Kuessner. “When the weather is good enough again, we will organise film evenings.”
Pascal Breuls, director of Student Services Centre and jury member gives his assessment:
“Orleansplein 22B is the winning house because of its good atmosphere, as if it is one big family. That is apparent from the road trip to Portugal that they have planned. They also want to put some of the prize money into decorating their house, in green, something I can appreciate. Moreover, they are the only ones who haven't received a yellow card from the police. What did shock me somewhat, was the small size of the rooms. A bed under slanted walls, a desk no more than eighty centimetres wide. A wardrobe couldn't even fit in the room, and had to be put in the corridor! Nevertheless, all of this disappears because of the atmosphere and amicable companionship among the students.
“All that cooking together and going on holiday together can also be seen on the Bogaardenstraat 16c21. The three also share the same passions surfing and sailing. What I like – they are living in an apartment complex with mixed company – is the good relationship with the lady living next door.
What I felt was very student-like on the Heugemerweg 41, was the V&D logo, very funny. I did feel it was a pity they were ‘clinically’ living together they hardly ever eat together. Besides, it was very neat. That guy, Valentin Kuessner, could easily take over from the cleaning ladies in that Dutch television programme ‘Hoe schoon is jouw huis’, (How clean is your house).
The Student House of the Year Elections 2016/2017
The election is a joint initiative by Observant and Maastricht Housing. Maurice Evers, Managing Director Student & Staff Housing: “With this competition, we want to share positive stories about student houses in Maastricht. Stories from students with various backgrounds who not only live together in the same house, but who are also a part of their community. Students who take their environment into account. The often negative stories about student houses deserve a positive dissenting opinion and a different perspective. This competition hopes to contribute to that.”
The kick-off was last October, after which students could enter their houses online for this competition (Maastricht Housing put up a total amount of 1200 euro). Despite the publicity through Observant, Maastricht Housing and all kinds of social media as well as newsletters, only four student houses dared to enter into battle. In the end, only three remained. That is why for the first time there is one first prize of 600 euro and two 'consolation prizes' of 300 euro.
Important elements that jury member Pascal Breuls took into consideration in his assessment were cosiness and solidarity, the relationship with the neighbourhood, fire safety, cleanliness, and taking joint initiatives.