Among the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, MaMo Architects was called upon to design a home for their formerly nomadic clients. "They had previously lived on a boat that they had navigated around the world," says principal Matthew Moger. Returning to Pennsylvania to put down more permanent roots, the world travelers sought a simplistic home that would ground them in the West Chester countryside.
Demolishing a small house to make room for the new residence, the MaMo team looked to the regional vernacular to inspire the new home’s design. With barns dotting the surrounding landscape, the architects opted for a simple, honest design, honoring the agrarian context through the barn’s traditional form.
For the home’s structural shell, the MaMo team made use of insulated concrete formwork (ICF), making it possible to play with depth at the home’s exterior and introduce recesses and cantilevers. "We strive to provide an alternative design solution to the antiquated building practices that are used today," says junior principal Natasha Coyle. "The insulated concrete formwork allowed us to create a contiguous structural building that can be pushed and pulled while maintaining its structural integrity."
At the exterior, the barn’s recognizable form is given a fresh treatment with the use of unexpected building materials. Charred wood cladding grounds the home’s first floor, giving the project—CHARRED barn—its namesake. Corrugated metal siding is incorporated on the facade’s upper volume, applied vertically in contrast to the horizontal wood cladding. Completing the exterior, a standing seam metal roof encases the structure. "By keeping the exterior color palette monotone, but introducing different textures, it presents itself as a more modern building," says project manager Jenni Wilga.
The home is sited to highlight the Brandywine Valley’s idyllic landscape, but the soaring views are not revealed all at once. To orchestrate the progressive experience, the MaMo team turned to Andersen Windows & Doors for all of the home’s openings. "Cost, durability, and quality were important considerations," says Wilga of the team’s Andersen integration. The home’s front entrance, positioned on the northern facade, has small punched openings; it is not until entering deeper into the house that large windows and doors reveal expansive views of the meadow.
While exterior materials were chosen for durability and longevity, the home’s interior provides a softer counterpoint. "While the exterior palette may lend to the CHARRED barn’s ability to blend into its landscape, the interior takes on lighter, warmer tones that make the occupant feel comfortable and at ease," says Moger. Whether blending in with its landscape, or providing an airy respite for its residents, the home’s innovative design and construction approach is a decidedly modern take on a time-honored agrarian form.
Learn more about all the 2023 honorees and the judging process at andersenawards.dwell.com.
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