Balancing Barn by MVRDV

Posted on Apr 01 2011

Balancing Barn is the brainchild of ambitious architects who took on gravity, and won. While drawings and models of MVRDV’s cantilevered holiday home have been floating around architectural press for a while now, the project is finally complete (and its final realisation doesn’t disappoint). Half vernacular, half suspended in free space, balancing barn is beautifully well-balanced.

Nestled on a captivating site in the English countryside, Balancing Barn looks like an archetypical twoperson home. This is true for its profile on approach, however its elongated extrusion unexpectedly shocks visitors who see the finesse in both engineering and architecture in its cantilevered structure. The project was an initiative of Living Architecture, an organisation aimed at showing the world exactly what it is to experience and live in modern buildings, so they commissioned powerhouse practice MVRDV to deliver the groundbreaking design.

While most associate country barns and houses with the charm of timber shingles, MVRDV have borrowed a glimpse of local building references in cladding the structure with reflective metal sheet tiles. At 30 metres long, 15 metres of the building cantilevers over a fairly steep slope that projects headlong into an English forest. The hovering device isn’t just for engineering feat’s sake – the architects have created an experiential sense of being within nature at ground level, and living up in the trees beyond. Balancing Barn is very much a reflection of nature’s linear experience – idioms of paths, journeys and changing perceptions are expressed throughout the building like a captivating narrative.

MVRDV’s balancing act was made possible by the building’s rigid structure and strategic load placement. Balancing Barn rests on a central concrete core with part of the house on ground made up of heavier materials than its cantilevered other half. The somewhat boisterous architecture commands a great deal of attention on its site, yet privacy inside and around the barn is at peace thanks to the forest of trees that surround it.

The interior of Balancing Barn in craft, detail and experience is as equally impressive to that of the exterior. Upon entry, guests are greeted by a large, open plan kitchen and dining room. A clean, logical arrangement of four double bedrooms follows, each with an en-suite bathroom. At the heart of Balancing Barn, the bedroom sequence is interrupted by a discrete staircase providing access to a garden below. Once at the far end of the cantilever, a large living area holds floor-to-ceiling windows in three of its walls, floor and ceiling for unencumbered views down, up and beyond. Windows and roof lights are operable, allowing the barn to quite literally open up entirely to nature.

The objective for the building’s interior was to provide an area in which two people will not feel lost in space, and a group of eight will not feel too cramped – this is the result of just the right amount of extrusion. A warm, neutral timber lines the interior, a tactile counterpoint to the otherwise shiny, reflective exterior. Artistic tile and carpet and colour studies are featured throughout the home to illustrate in abstract imagery the differences between past and contemporary Britain.

Balancing Barn is real architecture on the edge. The glistening half-cantilevered structure is brave and ambitious – executed to perfection through to its final completion. The building not only adds a twist to a vernacular style, but it challenges the very nature of contemporary architecture and inhabitation. Undeniably, MVRDV have gained worldwide fame and reputation for qualities of ingenuity, playfulness and comfort in their body of work. Balancing Barn is no exception to their portfolio. With a modest scale that still manages to pull off the monumental awe-factor, the shiny shingles and recognisable form of Balancing Barn still holds its country charm. +


IMAGES © Edmund Sumner

1. Silver tiles line the exterior to reference roof shingles of the local vernacular. 2. The surrounding trees add a sense of privacy for an architecture so loud. 3. On approach, the building appears to be a small twoperson house. 4. The living room is engulfed with light and natural surrounds with windows to the walls, floor and ceiling. 5. The open kitchen and dining room features contemporary furnishings spruced up with colourful wall tiles.