Upon first sight, Balancing Barn—located near a lake in peaceful Thorington, Suffolk—appears to be a small, two-person farmhouse. But upon reaching the end of its 984-foot driveway, one sees that the property is in fact almost 100 feet long, with half of its body jutting forward from a slope and straight out into the open space.
As part of Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project, the barn was designed by Rotterdam-based practice MVRDV and British firm Mole Architects. The eye-catching nature of the structure owes itself to the fact that half of the length of the barn cantilevers over a slope, which essentially projects the Barn headlong into the natural landscape of the English countryside. As the site slopes, visitors get the chance to take in linear perspectives of the natural surroundings, first at ground level, then at a similar eye-level, and finally into the tree canopies.
This architectural feat is made possible because the barn’s central core is comprised of concrete, and the materials used for the cantilevered half are lighter in weight than the materials used for the portion rooting the barn to the top of the slope.
The almost futuristic metal facade reflects the changing seasons, so the exterior takes on different "skins" at different times of the year. In the middle of the barn—in the midst of four double bedrooms—is a hidden staircase that leads down to a private garden. On the far end of the section that hangs out is a commodious living area with large windows on the floors, ceiling, and three walls where guests can soak up unobstructed green views. Well-insulated—with a ground-source pump used for heating—and ventilated with a heat recovery system, the Balancing Barn is both innovative and energy-efficient.
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