build £932,000 off grid £75,000
Black Barn is a rigorously environmental ‘Paragraph 79’ family home. The design is a modern yet sensitive interpretation of the black agricultural barn. It is a typology that has scattered the East Anglian countryside for centuries. Black timber cladding of the exterior and exposed structural timbers reference a vernacular language through this contemporary re-imagining.
Black Barn is a floating sculptural form surrounded by wild grass meadow. Consequently its shape is designed to have a minimum impact on its environment and its form is evolved from environmental considerations. This includes solar heat gain, shading and passive ventilation. Therefore, it establishes a dialogue with the seasonal and diurnal rhythms of the site.
Its simple yet effective structural logic was developed in partnership with the engineers from Structure Workshop. This resulted in an honest and efficient solution to building the family home. On the inside, UK-sourced Douglas Fir scissor trusses are used. The trusses taper upwards towards the large southern gable. As a result, they create a dramatic and elevated roofline with framing views to the surrounding countryside. While the glazing is facing south, it is also set back. This enables the building to self-shade in the hot summer sun while benefiting from passive solar heating in winter.
In order to take full advantage of its setting, Black Barn was conceived as a form belonging to the wider landscape. As a result, the boundary treatments were avoided or softened. The landscaping is soft and minimal while the domestic garden area lowered and hidden by a curved wall of flint. The softness of the surrounding meadow juxtaposes the drama of the bold form, whilst respecting the defining character of the rural environment.
RIBA East Awards Winner – 2019
In conjunction with meticulous detailing of the building fabric, passive heating and ventilation principles ensure that the internal environment is incredibly stable and that energy demand is low. A reduction in scale of fenestration towards the north helps to minimise heat losses.
Locally sourced timber, aggregate and flint, hugely reduce the home’s carbon footprint. The building envelope is highly insulated and draught free, using natural timber fibre insulation from ‘Back to Earth’.
Black Barn comprises two floors which employ two very different strategies. The upper ground floor is dramatic, bright, open and expansive. On entering the building, your eye draws up to a dramatic series of expressed scissor trusses through to the glazed gable and views of the landscape beyond. The kitchen is placed centrally adjacent to a bespoke birch plywood stair. The open plan playroom maximises views between spaces, allowing Mum and Dad to keep a keen eye on the children.
By contrast, the lower ground floor is simple, functional and calm. This floor reads as a ‘flint plinth’ embedded into the earth. As such all bedrooms and bathrooms are shaded from direct solar gain which allows them to remain cool and comfortable in the summer.
The lowering and recessing of the ground floor enables the timber form to appear as if it’s floating above the grass. While doing that it is also reducing the overall visible mass of the building.
The lower level of the home uses a seamless flint exterior treatment with a lime based mortar. Flint ia sourced from a nearby quarry and it creates a meaningful tie to the geological context.
Above, the tapering form of the living spaces is clad in Shou Sugi Ban (charred Western Red Cedar). This is an ancient Japanese process of charring timber as a form of preservation. Moreover it is a natural, non-toxic way to enhance durability.
The Scissor Trusses were made locally by Anson Timberworks, fabricated from UK-sourced Douglas Fir.
“From day one, we had tried not to get too attached to the design of Black Barn, as the project was originally conceived as an investment opportunity. However, as the design progressed, we couldn’t help falling in love with this house. Having lived here for several months we have absolutely no regrets. We now live in an incredibly beautiful, bespoke and comfortable home, which responds to the sun, the wind and the rain. Studio Bark are an inspiring bunch. They are always hunting for new and interesting ways to solve problems, whilst helping us with our brief and keeping an eye on the budget. Their insights and guidance have been invaluable throughout the project.”
-James Holland, Client
Quote from Planning Authority
“The benefit of this NPPF test and of such high quality schemes as the submitted one is that they continuously develop the language of rural design and help create a twenty-first century vernacular … The end result is highly original in terms of the strength of the original concept, its derivation and the form of its expression. Although born of a modest, if not humble, building typology, the submitted scheme presents itself as innovative architecture. It easily raises the bar for the quality of design in rural areas.”
– Robert Scrimgeour, Senior Design and Conservation Officer, Suffolk Coastal District Council