Balancing Barn

July 31, 2012 /

Suffolk, United Kingdom

Photo: Edmund Sumner

The Balancing Barn is situated on a beautiful site by a small lake in the English countryside near Thorington in Suffolk.

The Barn responds through its architecture and engineering to the site condition and natural setting. The traditional barn shape and reflective metal sheeting take their references from the local building vernacular, and reflects the surrounding nature and changing seasons. In this sense the Balancing Barn aims to live up to its educational goal in re-evaluating the countryside and making modern architecture accessible.

Photo: Edmund Sumner
Approaching along the 300 meter driveway, Balancing Barn looks like a small, two-person house.  It is only when reaching the end of the track that one experiences the full length of the volume and the cantilever.

Photo: Edmund Sumner
Photo: Edmund Sumner
The Barn is 30 meters long, with a 15 meters cantilever over a slope, plunging the house headlong into nature. The reason for this spectacular setting is the linear experience of nature. As the site slopes, and the landscape with it, the visitor experiences nature first at ground level and ultimately at tree height. The linear structure provides the stage for a changing outdoor experience.

At the midpoint the Barn starts to cantilever over the descending slope, a balancing act made possible by the rigid structure of the building, resulting in 50% of the barn being in free space. The structure balances on a central concrete core, with the section that sits on the ground constructed from heavier materials than the cantilevered section. The long sides of the structure are well concealed by trees, offering privacy inside and around the Barn.

Photo: Edmund Sumner
Photo: Edmund Sumner
Inside at the far, cantilevered end of the barn, there is a large living space with windows in three of its walls, floor and ceiling. The addition of a fireplace makes it possible to experience all four elements on a rainy day. Full height sliding windows and roof lights throughout the house ensure continuous views of, access to and connectivity with nature.

Photo: Edmund Sumner
Photo: Edmund Sumner
A neutral, timeless timber is the backdrop for the  interior, in which Studio Makkink & Bey have created a range of furnishings that reflect the design concept of the Barn.

The Barn is highly insulated, ventilated by a heat recovery system, warmed by a ground source heat pump, resulting in a high energy efficient building.
Drawing courtesy MVRDVFloor Plan
Drawing courtesy MVRDVRoof Plan
Drawing courtesy MVRDVLongitudinal Section
Drawing courtesy MVRDVCross Section

Living Architecture has asked a series of established and emerging world-class architects to build houses around the UK. The houses are available to the general public for holiday rentals through the website

Facts about Balancing Barn

Total floor area:

210  square meters


Design team:

Winy Maas
Jacob van Rijs
Nathalie de Vries
Frans de Witte
Gijs Rikken
Collaborating architect:
Mole architects

Landscape architect:   
The Landscape Partnership

Advisors / consultants    

Jane Wernick associates           


Studio Makkink & Bey


Living Architecture

Photographed by Edmund Sumner

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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