Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects
photographed by Edmund Sumner

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Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Here are some photographs by Edmund Sumner of the completed Balancing Barn holiday home in Suffolk, UK, by MVRDV and Mole Architects, including a swing under the 15 metre cantilever.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

The project is the first of five in Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project and available for rent from 22 October.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

The building is clad in reflective panels and the interior was created by Dutch designers Studio Makkink & Bey.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

More about the project here.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Photographs are by Edmund Sumner.

The information below is from MVRDV:


Balancing Barn, a cantilevered holiday home near the village of Thorington in Suffolk, England, was completed last Tuesday. The Barn is 30 meters long, with a 15 meters cantilever over a slope, plunging the house headlong into nature. Living Architecture, an organization devoted to the experience of modern architecture, commissioned MVRDV in 2008. Mole Architects from Cambridge were executive architects and Studio Makkink & Bey from Amsterdam collaborated on the interior. The Barn is now available for holiday rentals.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

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. In this sense the Balancing Barn aims to live up to its educational goal in re-evaluating the countryside and making modern architecture accessible. Additionally, it is both a restful and exciting holiday home. Furnished to a high standard of comfort and elegance, set in a quintessentially English landscape, it engages its temporary inhabitants in an experience.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Approaching along the 300 meter driveway, Balancing Barn looks like a small, two-person house. It is only when visitors reach the end of the track that they suddenly experience the full length of the volume and the cantilever. 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.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

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.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

The exterior is covered in reflective metal sheeting, which, like the pitched roof, takes its references from the local building vernacular and reflects the surrounding nature and changing seasons.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

On entering the Barn, one steps into a kitchen and a large dining room. A series of four double bedrooms follows, each with separate bathroom and toilet. In the very centre of the barn the bedroom sequence is interrupted by a hidden staircase providing access to the garden beneath. In the far, cantilevered end of the barn, there is a large living space with windows in three of its walls, floor and ceiling.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

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.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

The interior is based on two main objectives:

  • The house is an archetypical two-person home, expanded in shape and content so that it can equally comfortably accommodate eight. Two will not feel lost in the space, and a group of eight will not feel too cramped.
  • 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.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

The rooms are themed. Partly pixilated and enlarged cloud studies by John Constable and country scenes by Thomas Gainsborough are used as connecting elements between the past and contemporary Britain, as carpets, wall papers and mounted textile wall-elements.

Balancing Barn by MVRDV and Mole Architects

Click above for larger image

The crockery is made up of a set of English classics for two, and a modern series for a further six guests, making an endless series of combinations possible and adding the character of a private residence to the home.

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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.


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  • http://benjaminhaleblg.blogspot.com/ HALE B

    Normally I'm very interested in what MVRDV are doing but this is abit silly, apart from the huge cantilever, wacking a swing underneath doesn't make it a use-able space. U can commend their efforts to create something original but it doesn't seem to have developed much from the drawing board.

  • hairpiece

    …yes, but why?

    • DanaBlue

      because you can

  • NOS

    I DON'T want to try that swing . It's sad and made for lonely kids. And … why build in this way, in the countryside? Fired !!!!

  • Alexandra Campbell Interiors

    The cantilevered space is quite impressive.

  • http://www.wernick.eu.com/ Jane Wernick

    structural engineering by Jane Wernick Associates

    • billy toast

      well done you! other that the architecture is very bland

    • Richie Cunningham

      Not a particularly ambitious structure – a Vierendeel truss would have eliminated the need for invasive cross bracing.

      • Jane Wernick

        some are for doorways. It was a feature of the design.

  • http://twitter.com/kardiogramm @kardiogramm

    It’s a shame the interior and exterior don’t relate and that the final glazing at the cantilevered end is smaller than the original plans.

  • http://twitter.com/Dezeen @Dezeen

    That's Cosmo Sumner on the swing by the way

  • doodle

    What is "the linear experience of nature"?

  • http://bit.ly/9iHDoV PHILOSOPHER

    Weird architecture, great structural engineering, lonely swing… Could be a good set for some horror flick shooting. In other words fine gimmick, not fine architecture… Sorry…

  • cipher

    i think the only amazing about this job is the cantilever, good job Jane Wernick, and could anyone tell me how to cantilever 15m when the whole length 30m? I guess they will have to anchor the girders at the other end. however from the image, i can't tell how deep is the beam, it seems quite thin to me.

    • Jane Wernick

      Some additional dead load on the landed end!

  • Colin

    Why… Why not? We have forgotten the beauty of non essential items. As designers or architects, we seek to fill the needs of our society through creative means. (and while this is not without merit) We've lost sight of the childlike wonder and creative expression of such structural engineering. I don't question if a rainbow is "necessary" but I know it adds to my life. There is a beauty in the shadows cast here by this hovering home. Sure it could have been used for a car port or something of the like but a swing set (even a lone swing) is too fanciful of a thought for me not to enjoy this. This home is a sculpture.
    Cheers Mate.

    • corbu

      That the difference between an architect and an artist. We're architects, and our purpose is to achive than functionallity and design can come together. If u want to design a sculpture, ok, design a sculpture. But in my opinion is very silly to spend thousand of dollars to build a building only for the aime to create something "beauty", withoute thinking in anything else…

  • tsktsk

    I like the glass for so you can keep an eye on the kid swinging in the swing, but not really.
    Nifty interiors.

  • NOS

    If my fat uncle jump up on that swing, the whole house could falling down on his big head

  • http://www.oag.uk.com/ Structural Glazing

    This is great, you have a nice little place under the barn to put some patio furniture as well!

    Who even thinks of these ideas?

  • http://www.finkernagelross.com lior

    great architecture, fun building…just enjoy it for god sake!

  • SAIF

    I have an issue when a house is all about one thing…
    THE CANTILEVER! and ending up in a 'little' swing..
    I share the awe of the 15 meters…
    but to keep it warm will I need more 'heaters'..
    don’t get me wrong I love the concept…
    just seeking ways to make it ‘more’ perfect…
    I would prefer ,to be honest, a reflective pool…
    under the house and it will look so cool….
    from the top it’ll be framed by the floor…’window’…
    and the reflections will be great from down..below…(with the mirror finish)
    it will be a play of light on the water ripples… (the little waves from the wind!)
    it’ll give you goosebumps and shrink your nipples.. : D
    there’s more to add in that shaded space…
    I mean for social activities and turn into another place!….
    Excuse my English if its too bad…
    Its my second language and I’m a bit mad…

  • http://www.hallbednarczyk.com Martin

    Given that the building is essentially a folly for hire, you have to admire its fun and audacity of execution – the child's swing positioned in such an apparently precarious location really emphasises that.
    Personally, I think the cladding is unfortunate, mainly because it has a look of lightweight flimsiness which reduces the drama – it's far easier to balance a Coke can (or an Italian Job bus) than a barn.
    To my mind, a more direct use of agricultural cladding materials (corrugated steel etc) might have made the subversive nature of the scheme more powerful.

  • bekir ademi

    its ok but I think that the shadow of the house is enough for the lower place, which is marked artificially

  • AJ

    Ok the swing is AMAZING but only in the photo because it accentuates the cantilever (which is structurally sublime) but then what? And please can someone explain why such a huge cantilever is necessary to the design? Because I really can’t figure it out myself…

  • christopher

    interiors = holy cow the 90s are back!

  • http://www.flooringcanada.ca Flooring Pro

    Very amazing project. Really liked the contrast between the industrial materials on the outside, and the wood and natural materials on the inside. Nice pictures as well!

  • Maysoun

    Even though i would find standing under this huge cantilever kind of scary, the building is really outstanding. The building being of two parts, part on the ground and the other hanging in the air, gives it such uniqueness. A surprising thing i noticed is that there is a window on the bottom of the cantilever, it will give people living there a one of a kind experience.

  • Amna S.A

    The building reflects the structure, it computes between mass and nature, that’s because he use the natural elements for the building outer facades. And the lighting of the building gives a feeling of rest and comfort.

  • mohamed

    Clever design, how building base in green area and the other half by the structure. As I know, the structure in this case should be more sold and strong.
    The design reflect the architect mind and how to learn to compare between the nature and building.

  • Thaer Alrufaye

    very strange building ,especially the flying part .

  • fizz

    So there was this architect see, pondering on the final scene of The Italian Job…..

  • Lizzie

    This building is being given a lot of credit considering it doesn't respond to its context or the vernacular – to say it relates to a traditional barn shape is completely wrong, I've never seen a barn of those proportions in Suffolk, and most projects so far removed from context would not achieve planning permission.
    I am glad to see people here actually voicing some criticism.

  • proyham

    Reality check! Does it ever rain in Suffolk? No eves-troughs; no downspouts; where does the run-off go? No weather protection for the window/doors, either. The exterior will be a mess after a few seasons, but it would seem that longevity is not an objective; flash and fizzle!
    I've seen better finish on home-built campers.
    Quite disgusting and of no actual value, despite it being an interesting engineering project.
    Modular "homes" made from discarded shipping containers have more appeal, AND functionality. So there……

  • Johnny H

    Very silly.