Architect: reSET architecture
Location: Betuwe, The Netherlands
Project Team: Theo Mathijssen (architect), Pieter Bardoel
Floor Area (sqm): 280 sqm
Photographs: Huub Smits
The office ‘reSET architecture’ designed the renovation and extension of a small decaying farmhouse with a beautiful apple orchard, located in an idyllic location in the Dutch Betuwe region. The simplicity and sobriety of the farmhouse is revealing much about life in the past in this area and how a peasant family and their livestock must have lived here under one roof. This narrative quality does not make the building a monument which must be preserved as it is. It’s the self-evident presence in its surroundings that make the farmhouse distinctive and worth preserving. Therefore the design strategy for the renovation of the derelict farmhouse aimes to maximise the connection with the landscape, direct and metaphorical.
A new annex is placed in the second line, behind the existing farmhouse, inferior in height but with a strong presence, providing a backdrop for the farmhouse. In its updated context the old building becomes more prominent in its surroundings. The contrast in architecture between the farmhouse and its new added wing results in an ambiguous synergy. The character of the separate elements is easy to read yet this does not mean their relationship is simple: recognize new changes to the old farm and local historical references to elements in the new volume provide a multiple relationship between the two parts of the whole. The two main volumes are clearly recognizable, old and new, but in function, detailing and materials linked.
In function the differences reinforce each other. The annex generates space for a redistribution of programme to the most appropriate place. Two different housing archetypes are combined; a landscape-oriented ‘loft-like’ open-plan living space and a more private plan, arranged in rooms, in the existing farmhouse. In both cases, the openings in the wall are arranged in a way that they provide optimum views of the surrounding landscape. In the old building these are just small peepholes and in the new section large windows provide a clear visual connection with the orchard. The facades of the extension have an identical structure, there is a steel base and top edge separated by a glass facade or timber infill. The black wooden slats infill refer to the traditional barn facades in the region. The wooden infill has a predetermined pattern with slats of different heights so that the rural character gets an elegant refinement.
This renovation clearly shows that it is possible to reuse a derelict farmhouse and preserve it well without loss of its original rural character. Simultaneously the updated ensemble is enhanced it with a bold contemporary architecture that creates additional qualities fitting today’s living standards and expressing the mindset of the new residents.