Balancing Barn

Balancing Barn

Housing
Suffolk, United Kingdom - Build completed in 2010
Chris Wright

Balancing Barn

MVRDV as Architects

The Balancing Barn is a cantilevered holiday home, a 30 m long structure that balances over a descending grassed slope at its midpoint  and leaving 50% projecting into free space. The barn responds through its architecture and engineering to the site condition and natural setting as it offers a wide view over the Suffolk landscape, adjacent lake and surrounding gardens.


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The MVRDV project is built on a beautiful site by a small lake in the English countryside near Thorington in Suffolk. From the road, the barn is almost invisible; the front being only 7 metres wide, with a pitched roof, faces the long straight driveway approach, suggesting a small house with a traditional shape. The volume, however, has a length of 30 metres. At the midpoint it starts to cantilever over the descending slope; a balancing act made possible by the rigid structure of the building; resulting in 50% of the barn being in free space, and giving a wide view over the Suffolk landscape, adjacent lake and surrounding gardens. The long sides of the structure are well hidden by trees allowing privacy inside and around the barn. The exterior is covered in a reflective material, resulting in the barn changing its exterior by reflecting the seasons.


Within the interior and closest to the driveway, is a kitchen, and large dining room. A series of four double bedrooms follows, each with separate bathroom and toilet. In the very centre of the barn, the bedroom sequence is interrupted by a hidden staircase providing access to the garden beneath. In the far, cantilevered end of the barn, a large living space is created. Throughout all the rooms, full height sliding windows, roof lights and a glass floor, give wonderful views and access into the garden and surrounding landscape, and give the visitors the opportunity to connect with nature.


The barn responds through its architecture and engineering to the site condition and natural setting. The traditional barn shape and reflective metal sheeting take their references from the local building vernacular.


Living Architecture has commissioned other houses by Peter Zumthor, Jarmund and Vigsnæs Architects, NORD and Hopkins Architects.

Dynamic balance

Reynaers Aluminium as Manufacturers

Reynaers CP 155-LS were used for the large sliding windows. The large protruding section meant that it was possible to place another large window in the floor as a complement to the architectonic spectacle.


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‘Holidays in modern architecture.‘ That is the slogan for one of the most remarkable commercial projects of recent years. The not-for-profit organisation Living Architecture has realised four special holiday homes spread over England. Project number five will soon follow. Each one is an extraordinary example of contemporary architecture, designed by leading architects. The most spectacular of the projects is the ‘Balancing Barn’ in Suffolk, designed by the Dutch bureau MVRDV. In the 30-metre long house, which juts out 15 metres over the edge of a rise, Reynaers CP 155-LS was used for the large sliding windows. The large protruding section meant that it was possible to place another large window in the floor as a complement to the architectonic spectacle.

GV Supplies Bespoke Rooflights to Balancing Barn, Suffolk Project

Glazing Vision Europe as Manufacturers

Glazing Vision supplied a number of different roof light solutions to the project from electronically hinged GV VisionVents to bespoke Multipart GV Flushglaze Walk-on roof lights.


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The Balancing Barn in Suffolk was designed by Dutch Architects, MVRDV, for Living Architecture as a modern alternative holiday home.


The concept was to promote world class architecture in rural Britain and give people the experience of staying in an architectually designed space. This particular model houses up to 8 people with a further 4 properties to be completed.


The barn, set in stunning Suffolk countryside near the coast, strategically balances over the landscape giving way to panoramic views through it’s large windows.


Glazing Vision supplied a number of different rooflight solutions to this inspiring project from electronically hinged GV VisionVents to bespoke Multipart GV Flushglaze Walk-on rooflights. All offering the same high quality as standard and aesthetic design allowing the surrounding environment to be viewed in unique ways.

Balancing Barn

Mole Architects as Media

The 30-metre long barn-shaped house cantilevers 15 meters over a slope, plunging the house headlong into nature.


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In 2008 MVRDV was approached by a new organization called Living Architecture. Founders Charlotte and Alain de Botton and Mark Robinson met with MVRDV to explain their innovative concept. The basis was the discrepancy between what is often unappealing urban sprawl and the idealized countryside. Living Architecture wanted to reclaim the countryside by creating some outstanding modern homes that would engage their surroundings in a beneficial dialogue. The houses were to be available to rent for short stays and this would give the general public the opportunity to develop a new perspective both on modern architecture and the countryside. MVRDV was commissioned to create the first of these houses on a beautiful rural site by a small lake near Thorington in Suffolk. From the outset, Living Architecture was committed to achieving the highest possible standards for its properties. MVRDV became both the first practice to be appointed by Living Architecture and the test case for the young organization, which learned, as the design process progressed, to become a stimulating client of experimental architecture The brief was that the house should be equally suitable for two or eight inhabitants. The philosophy that the house should offer a radical experience of the countryside, with engagement of nature at its heart and reference Suffolk barns was realized in what emerged as the definitive design. The result is a 30-metre long barn-shaped house which cantilevers 15 meters over a slope, plunging the house headlong into nature. ; Suffolk Coastal District Council’s planning department were very supportive of the proposal; and the application was unanimously approved by the Area Committee in April 2008. Great care was taken to clear the site, which sits on the edge of a nature reserve before construction began. An extensive ecological mitigation programme was undertaken, with slow worms, grass snakes, newts and bats all requiring temporary re-homing. Non- native trees and plants have been removed and care has been taken to encourage the wildlife back, by planting native tree species and re-creating extensive meadow areas in the landscape. The construction challenges of such an extreme cantilever required careful consideration during the design stages and continual re-evaluation during building. Constant re-evaluation and surveying of the building’s deflection took place during the construction. Elements were installed in anticipation of future deflection caused by further loadings. The building is designed as ten 3m long bays, each 7m wide. Five bays sit on the ground with the concrete floor acting as a counter weight restraining the five bays cantilevering out over the lower landscape. Underneath, within the counter weight, a basement utility area is formed. The natural frequencies of the building and those generated by the occupants were calculated by Jane Wernick Associates. They deduced what an acceptable level of vibration would be - slightly more than in an office - but much less than in a bridge. Computer models demonstrated the likely frequencies that would be experienced and the construction weight and stiffness calculated to produce just the right balance. Had the vibrations in the final building been uncomfortable, dampers could have been installed into the floor of the cantilever. The final building performed as predicted by the engineers and hence dampers have not been installed. The slight ‘bounce’ reminds the occupants of the structural feat they are inhabiting. 175mm thick insulated timber stud walls wrap the steel frame, sitting on a continuous Glulam beam around the perimeter. Thermal bridges are minimised and the building is well sealed to achieve a good air pressure test rating. A ground source heat pump provides hot water and heating, whilst rainwater is recycled and used for flushing toilets. Fresh water is sourced from a well and borehole on site. Externally the walls and roof are clad in interlocking polished stainless steel shingles. The stainless steel softly reflects the sky, trees and landscape, integrating the building into its surroundings. The gutters and downpipes are concealed to leave the simple form unadorned, bar the large externally sliding doors. The mirrored soffit of the cantilever is clad in an aluminium composite panel giving a near-perfect reflection of the flint and cobbled landscape below. A walk-on glass floor panel and a similarly sized glazed panel in the roof allow views through the house to the sky. The steel superstructure was always going to have significant presence and MVRDV were keen that the structure should remain visible internally. The clearest expression of this can be seen along the corridor. The interior including columns, walls and ceilings are clad in ash faced ply with doors and cupboards are seamlessly integrated into the walls. The floor is solid ash throughout. Large glass doors puncture the perimeter walls and slide externally over the building’s skin with the diagonal steel bracing bisecting these openings, continually reminding one of the superstructure. The project was completed in October 2010

Studio Makkink & Bey at the Balancing Barn

Studio Makkink & Bey as Interior Architects

The interior scheme traces the transition from earth to sky as one walks from the earthbound entrance of the Barn towards the ‘levitating’ end of the building, where the floor to ceiling window offers an uninterrupted view of the clouds and sky. Walls and floors are decorated with sampled elements of paintings by Suffolk artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough.


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Commissioned by Living Architecture, we were asked to create the interior of MVRDV’s Balancing Barn in Suffolk. Their design was largely inspired by the way the Barn brings the outside inside and emphasises the presence of both earth and sky. Living Architecture aims to make modern architecture available to a wider public. While most modern architecture is either a private home or a transitory place (e.g. airports, museums, etc.), this project was set up to create public spaces with a more residential character. Writer, philosopher and creative director of Living Architecture Alain de Botton explored the notion of experiencing architecture earlier in his book: The Architecture of Happiness, this notion comes to life in the Balancing Barn, where experiences are the constituents of its interior concept and communal dwelling is in concert with with individual conduct.


The interior scheme traces the transition from earth to sky as one walks from the earthbound entrance of the Barn towards the ‘levitating’ end of the building, where the floor to ceiling window offers an uninterrupted view of the clouds and sky. Walls and floors are decorated with sampled elements of paintings by Suffolk artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. The classic images gradually evolve into abstract angular colour patches, they become images reminiscent of modern art and they take on a more applied form as wall panelling. The house can accommodate two or eight people equally comfortably, feeling neither empty nor crowded, thanks to customisable furniture and fittings, mostly by Dutch designers. The clear cut Dutch furnishings and primary colours, the simple 'butt joinery' used in the construction of the designs by Studio Makkink & Bey all celebrate the elementary design idiom that is characteristic for Dutch design.


The kitchen acts as a gateway from outside to inside, following an earth theme. Upon entering you immediately notice the reproduction of a painting by Constable of a horse and carriage that seems to have just walked into the kitchen. Its colours are dispersed over the wall following it round the corner into the corridor. There are six generic sets of cutlery, crockery and glassware and two ‘special’ sets that were purchased from English companies with a long tradition of producing crockery. Thus two people can enjoy dinner using all the elements of the special tableware, whereas when there are eight visitors, each can have one piece from the special set. The next room in the building is the gardeners room with a painting of a farm house with a tree and parts of a garden border. The fence depicted on one of the fragments and the fences in the country side surrounding the Balancing Barn modelled for the construction of the furniture that was designed by Studio Makkink & Bey. The furniture was designed to be versatile and, as well as the night stands, the beds all have one plank sticking out to clamp a reading lamp on at a preferred height. To reach the upper shelves of the built in cabinet, the night stands double as a stepladder. Both designs provide possibilities to fit the rooms to ones' need.


The following room, is the fishers room, on its wall a replica of Constable's 'The Mill Stream, Willy Lott's House' shows a mill house with a pond next to it. The water on this painting determines which colour scheme dominates the room. The corridor then moves on to the pigs room where the pigs on Gainsborough's painting give the room its pink appearance. In the adjacent cloud room the view is lifted up into the sky. Cloud fragments and grey pixel panels give the room a light tone. Sky and the notion of floating are the key elements of the living room since it hovers over the ground, suspended over the edge of the hill. Makkink & Bey have chosen Gainsborough's most famous painting of a boy dressed in blue to be the signature element of this room, the colour of his clothes echoing and reinforcing the sky theme and informing the colour scheme. Meanwhile, ladies from Constable’s “Ladies From The Family Of Mr William Mason Of Colchester” sit quietly alongside the temporary occupants of the Balancing Barn in this light-filled room.

Balancing Barn

Uginox as Manufacturers


The walls and roof are covered in 0.5mm thick Grade 1.4404, 316L Uginox Bright stainless steel by Aperam Stainless Steel Europe. It’s a traditional technique of interlocking stainless steel shingles which are individually secured using secret fixings providing robust and easy clean surface.


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The Balancing Barn stands on the edge of a tranquil nature reserve a few miles inland from the Suffolk coast, near the historic towns of Walberswick and Aldeburgh.


Clad in elegant silver tiles, with walls and roof covered in 0.5mm thick Grade 1.4404, 316L Uginox Bright stainless steel by Aperam Stainless Steel Europe. Working in closely with UK based Mole Architects of Cambridge Aperam SSE provided assistance with samples to assist the design and planning approval procedure.


The Balancing Barn is a cantilevered holiday home for clients Living Architecture, a British organization devoted to making architecture an experience, who have a series of outstanding holiday homes in the UK. The building, which is 3O metres long, balances over a descending grassed slope at its midpoint leaving 50% projecting into free space, all made possible by the rigid structure. The beauty of the ever changing Suffolk skies and landscape are reflected in the Uginox Bright surface rejoicing in the season's colours and moods. Roof and walls are covered using a traditional technique of interlocking stainless steel shingles which are individually secured using secret fixings providing robust and easy clean surface. Specialist contractor CEL from Peterborough undertook the project. The building incorporates four double bedrooms, each with separate bathroom and WC. At the centre of the barn is a hidden staircase providing access to the garden beneath. At opposite ends are the kitchen and large living space. All rooms have full height sliding windows giving wonderful views.


The advantages of stainless steel: - Its bright surface finish reflects the evolving colour of the day and of the seasons - A suitable aspect for this type of contemporary architecture - An easy implementation of shingles providing robustness to the facade - A smooth low roughness for easy maintenance - A grade (316L) suitable for marine atmosphere


Technical Data Copyright: Aperam Stainless Steel Information Grade: 316L/1.4404 Finish: Uginox Bright Thickness: 0,50 mm Area: 34 T

Products used in this project
Product Specifications
BrandCategoryProducts
Glazing Vision EuropeGlazing Vision EuropeManufacturers
Mole ArchitectsMole ArchitectsMedia
Reynaers AluminiumReynaers AluminiumManufacturers
UginoxUginoxManufacturers
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