The studio of architects Anna Lui and Mike Tonkin has converted an old farm building into an economical, sustainable contemporary home in a project which establishes a profound dialogue with its natural surroundings. The concept inspiring the architects in the project was bringing the landscape into the building, evoking or drawing inspiration from the landscape in a number of architectural solutions.
One such feature is a long gallery two floors high, an architectural element that emphasises verticality, recalls the area’s tall trees and brings the landscape into the building through the glass. The library with its mirror shelves evokes the nearby stand of white birch trees on the site.
The house designed by the architects of Tonkin Liu meets the clients’ need for a quality residence capable of serving not only as their home but as a library and a gallery for the owners’ large collection of books and works of art, an energy-efficient, low-cost building that would interact with the farming landscape of North Yorkshire. The old shed that stood on the site, originally used for storing farm equipment and tractors, was not considered a useless building to be knocked down but rather seen as a challenge and an opportunity to take advantage of.
In a certain sense the building continues to serve the same function of storage container, but the transformation effected by Tonkin Liu elevates it to the role of a container for culture, for books and works of art.
The architects preserved the shed’s original shape while redesigning its steel structure and covering it with larch wood boards and galvanised steel fins of different sizes, which create an original pattern on the façade and recall the bark of the nearby white birch trees. Inside, the architects arranged the various different functions around interconnected spaces, alternating smaller, more intimate private spaces with larger areas such as the big library. The architects made us of traditional building techniques and low-cost materials to keep the budget down. Careful control over all details, use of light and mirrors, and a colour palette characterised by various hues of grey and white give the house the atmosphere of a big, prestigious classical villa, despite its modest size as a country cottage.
Marco Goldschmied, founder of the Stephen Lawrence Prize, remarked when he awarded the prize to the architects of Tonkin Liu that the Old Shed New House project perfectly incarnates the meaning of the award.
The judges particularly emphasised that the project demonstrates that a talented architect can create an important work even with a low budget, in this case converting a farm building into "a breath-taking new house".
Images courtesy of RIBA, photo by © Greg Storrar, © Alex Peacock
Architect: Tonkin Liu www.tonkinliu.co.uk
Landscape Architect: Tonkin Liu
Location: North Yorkshire, UK Size: 210sqm
Contractor: Vine House Construction
Engineer: Rodrigues Associates
M&E Engineer: Integration
RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize 2018
RIBA National Award 2018
RIBA Yorkshire Award 2018
RIBA Yorkshire Small Project of the Year Award 2018
GAGA Architecture Award 2018