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The Dutch Barn

by Sandy Rendel Architects Ltd

Client Paul & Pauline McBride

Awards RIBA South East Award 2022, RIBA South East Small Project Award 2022 sponsored by Gaggenau and RIBA South East Client of the Year Award 2022

© Richard Chivers

The Dutch Barn is a private house with a big difference: the clients have created a wonderful eight-acre public garden, wanting to live as well as work in the midst of this landscape. This means sharing their lives with the public who come to see their Sussex Prairie Gardens. To achieve this, they commissioned Sandy Rendel Architects to convert a historic Dutch Barn that sat within the garden, making use of planning rules that allow the conversion of agricultural buildings outside of traditional development boundaries. Such conversions can often lose the character of the original building. However, at The Dutch Barn the architects have successfully turned the existing structure into a contemporary house that carries a quiet authenticity. Through careful detailing and research into materials, the building retains the feel of the original ‘black wrinkly tin’ barn, while the large, abstractly-positioned windows give a contemporary look that speaks also of the ways that such barns are patched and change over time.

Inside, the house is ‘upside-down’: the ground floor contains light-filled bedrooms and an office for administering the gardens, but the real magic is upstairs. Rough-sawn timber stairs lead up to a single large space with a great curving vaulted ceiling which follows the shape of the roof. Here the architect’s skill has conjured a space that feels grand and yet also intimate and warm, which creates different zones for different activities without losing the sense of the whole. Bold but not garish colours, and careful placing of bookshelves and window seats combine with a confident positioning of windows to allow the moments and activities of everyday life to connect with the garden and the wider landscape of the South Downs beyond.

A final flourish encapsulates the joyful nature of this project: the clients asked for a viewing tower next to the house, for the public to enjoy an elevated view of the garden. Constructed from Corten steel, this cylindrical tower is suggestive of agricultural grain silos and so complements the main house. At the end of a long day working in the garden, after the public have left, the clients can cross a bridge from the house to the top of the tower where it becomes a secluded private terrace.

Internal area 219.00 m²

Contractor Harfrey Construction Ltd.

Structural Engineers Structure Workshop

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Holpen Associates

Approved Building Inspector Stroma Building Control

© Richard Chivers
© Richard Chivers
© Sandy Rendel Architects
© Sandy Rendel Architects
© Sandy Rendel Architects
© Sandy Rendel Architects
© Sandy Rendel Architects
© Sandy Rendel Architects
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