Barns Reimagined as Barnhouses

Uncategorized 30 Jan 2017

Barns were once places to store hay and grains, or keep livestock. However, nowadays barns are no longer home to horses and cows, but people and cars. How can you embrace the typology of a barn to design a modern house that blends seamlessly into the original landscape?

Finding the balance between old and new

The prime function of a barn brings with it an old timely look that makes barns struggle to keep their place in the modern world. Out with the old and in with the new is a principle that I make my own with the power of compromise. For me, maintaining a barn’s character is a form of honesty. Life continues, but you can still respect the old and what once was. As people’s need for space increases, barns are becoming redesigned as living spaces – homes called barnhouses. When fusing old and new together, it is important not to overpower the existing environment.

For me, maintaining a barn’s character is a form of honesty.

Aat Vos Aat Vos Creative Guide

Due to barns having a history, and therefore also an identity, especially private families want to keep their family heritage alive. Businesses are also interested in barns and their iconic look, with some wanting to design them in such a way that they can also be transformed into a home someday. A barnhouse needs to have a smooth transition from its barn exterior that pays homage to its history, to its home interior that meets today’s living demands. One way of reinterpreting a classic barn is by seeing it as a simple building made with local materials and letting expressive materials bring the interior to life.

Blending the new barns with their natural surroundings

Barns are traditionally long stretched buildings, an asset that helps them blend into their surroundings. An elongated, yet humble building can easily visually integrate into its environment compared to a massive block shaped one. Visual cohesion can also be achieved with new materials, such as COR-TEN steel cladding. This type of steel has an intentionally terracotta and rusty look. When dry, its orange color blends with the traditional bricks of other barnhouses next door. When wet, its black color is just as dark as the roof tiles of the neighboring barns.

Redesigning of barns as barnhouses in the countryside has led to one of these projects being awarded the Drenthe Architecture Prize 2007 and being nominated for both the prestigious Dutch Steel Award and the Dutch Architects Building of the Year Award. In fact, my own house (designed back in 1999) was one of the first barnhouses ever to set foot on Dutch soil.