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Balancing Barn, Suffolk, United Kingdom

Location: Thorington, Halesworth IP19 9JG, United Kingdom
Year built: 2010
Architect: MVRDV
Photographer: Edmund Sumner

Partially floating above the serene British countryside, nestled by a lake in Thorington, Suffolk, England, the Balancing Barn harmoniously integrates with its natural surroundings. This architectural marvel, crafted by MVRDV in 2010, is a testament to modern architecture’s adaptability in diverse landscapes. 

Resembling a traditional barn, the Balancing Barn showcases a rectangular structure with a pitched roof, paying homage to its rural heritage. Its exterior boasts reflective metal sheeting, a subtle nod to the local architectural vernacular. Set amidst the lush English countryside, this innovative design makes modern architecture accessible. 

Spanning over 30 meters, the barn is a feat of engineering, with half of its structure cantilevering over a slope, creating the illusion of a floating barn. The building responds to the site’s steep terrain, offering double-story views across the English landscape. 

The barn’s structural foundation rests on a central concrete core, with the ground-bearing the majority of the weight through robust materials. 

Upon entering, visitors might initially perceive the barn as a conventional one-story house, resembling a child’s drawing, with mirrored vertical doors flanking the entrance. The interior layout flows seamlessly from the more social areas, like the kitchen and dining room, towards the private bedrooms. At the centre of the barn, a hidden staircase leads down to a garden bed below. As one continues along the hallway, which extends from the cantilevered end, a spacious living area unfolds. Here, full-height sliding windows provide views of the picturesque landscape, and two walkable glass panels centered in the floor offer a unique perspective from above to below. 

The ultimate revelation occurs at the far end of the Balancing Barn, where visitors experience the full height of the structure, offering expansive views from the ground floor to the experience of sitting amongst the treetops. This journey through varying scales unfolds in a linear fashion, ensuring a transformative experience. 

In recognition of its outstanding design, the Balancing Barn earned two prestigious awards in 2011: the Brit Insurance Award and the Red Dot Award, solidifying its place as an architectural masterpiece that redefines our relationship with the natural world. 

“This approach offers a unique perspective on integrating architectural elements into the natural landscape. Unlike conventional buildings that typically align with the terrain’s slope, this design creatively harnesses the slope to its advantage, resulting in a treehouse-like vantage point, all while preserving the traditional barn structure.” – Jessica Wei 

Learn more about Modernist architectural styles here.

Images courtesy of © MVRDV & Edmund Sumner