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 – a typology that has scattered the East Anglian countryside for centuries. Black timber cladding to the exterior and exposed structural timbers within reference this vernacular language though a contemporary re-imagining.
Inspired by the building’s ambition to have as little impact as possible on its surroundings, Black Barn reads as a floating sculptural form surrounded by wild grass meadow. The striking form evolved from environmental considerations including solar heat gain, shading and passive ventilation, establishing a dialogue with the seasonal and diurnal rhythms of the site.
A simple yet effective structural logic was developed in partnership with engineers Structure Workshop, resulting in an honest and efficient solution. UK-sourced Douglas Fir scissor trusses taper upwards towards the large southern gable, creating a dramatic elevated roofline and framing views to the surrounding countryside. This glazing faces south, but is set back enabling the building form 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, where boundary treatments have been avoided or softened. The landscaping is soft and minimal, with 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.
Passive heating and ventilation principles, in conjunction with meticulous detailing of the building fabric, 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’.
A holistic energy off-grid strategy is centered around environmental technologies that are unobtrusive to family life. A solar array, bio-diesel generator with heat recovery system (mimicking a micro-CHP), battery storage, borehole water source and packaged sewage system means that the house functions completely off-grid.
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, they eye is drawn 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 playroom is kept open to maximise 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, remaining cool and comfortable in the summer.
The lowering and recessing of the ground floor enables the timber form to appear as if floating above the grasses, while 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 was sourced from a nearby quarry and 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; 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, 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 and easily raises the bar for the quality of design in rural areas.”
– Robert Scrimgeour, Senior Design and Conservation Officer, Suffolk Coastal District Council