Many of the projects by MVRDV go beyond speculative – they are sheer conceptual exercises, designer statements that no one would possibly build. It would have been easy to assume that the ‘Balancing Barn’ was one of these, but here it is in living color, constructed in conjunction with Mole Architects. Is it what you would have anticipated from early-stage plans and projections?
Over half of this “Balancing Barn” vacation home hangs on the air, cantilevered out over a sloping hill that drops away from the grounded portion of the residence. The retreat is part of a five-house set designed by established and emerging architects of note. The side-to-side window is a tad smaller and the final exterior is a bit more shiny than the original model might have indicated.
Incredible trusses make this dizzying suspension possible, though a consistency of design across the whole makes the feat look effortless. Still, one gets the sense the whole structure could break in half and slide down the hill at a moment’s notice. In this respect, it does exactly what the earliest design sketches indicate.
Inside, wood members make for a cozier home than the metal-clad, vertigo-inducing exterior (and the gray-filled original 3D models) would lead one to expect. A small ‘floor light’ window lets people look down to the covered space below, or back up into the home from the sheltered hillside slope overhung by the house.
“Balancing Barn is situated on a beautiful site by a small lake in the English countryside near Thorington in Suffolk,” say the architects. “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. In this sense the Balancing Barn aims to live up to its educational goal in re-evaluating the countryside and making modern architecture accessible. Additionally, it is both a restful and exciting holiday home. Furnished to a high standard of comfort and elegance, set in a quintessentially English landscape, it engages its temporary inhabitants in an experience.”