A sculptural take on the traditional Dutch “hoeve,” this creative home and culinary school hides a passageway beneath a grassy hill.
In the Southern Netherlands, the playful aesthetics of Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo have brought new life to the traditional hoeve—Dutch for farmstead—in Villa Vught, a contemporary ensemble of farmhouse-like buildings for a complex brief that includes a house for a family of four as well as a separate space for the clients’ culinary school.
Bounded by a circular walkway, Villa Vught is shaped like a small village with three distinct volumes arranged around a central courtyard. Dark bronze aluminum siding seamlessly wraps around all sides of the buildings, making them look like large-scale sculptures in the landscape—a fitting effect that reflects the family’s love of art.
"The design ambition endeavored to connect the residential functions while maintaining the detached traditional farmstead typology," explain the architects. "To this end, a half-sunken corridor, concealed beneath a grass mound, links the taller landmark volume with the barn’s living room. The barn containing the cooking studio and guesthouse is completely detached, maintaining sight-lines from the courtyard to the surrounding landscape."
The taller building houses the master bedroom, bedrooms for the clients’ teenage daughters, and a rooftop terrace with sweeping landscape views. The communal spaces—which include the living room, an eat-in kitchen, and a workspace and TV room on the second floor—are located in the barn-like building next door. The passageway between the two buildings that's hidden beneath an overgrown grass mound makes the two structures appear separate and provides thermal mass benefits for the wine cellar located within.
On the other side of the tall building is another barn-like volume with a spacious culinary studio for cooking classes, workshops, and team-building activities. The building also includes a garage, storage space, and a guest suite on the upper floor.
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In contrast to the metal exterior, the interior is wrapped in European silver fir, a material selected for its visual warmth, uniform texture, and sustainable qualities. The project’s environmentally friendly profile is also raised with the use of cross-laminated timber for all of the building structures and the inclusion of electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. All of these measures combined help Villa Vught achieve an Energy Performance Coefficient of 0.26. The clients also plan to install solar panels in the future.
Instead of full-height panoramic windows the architects sought to carefully curate views of the landscape with windows of varying sizes "placed like picture frames, adorning the walls with select images of the surrounding farmlands," explains the firm. "Together with the great collection of art that the clients have placed throughout the house, it feels like we, as architects, became part of that art collection."
"The whole idea of the architecture was to provide various relations with the surrounding land. Big and small openings in the facade, for each room a different character. Like farmhouses and barns often show in their facade a diverse collection of openings, all with their own purpose. In our design each window or opening has its own purpose and meaning."