Bureau de Change transforms Cotswolds chicken shed into bucolic family home

Bureau de Change transforms Cotswolds chicken shed into bucolic family home

When it comes to re-purposing a building typology – an old wharf into apartments for instance – we dare say a chicken shed would not be the first template you’d reach for when designing a family home.

Hats off then to the London-based Bureau de Change (headed by Katerina Dionysopoulou and Billy Mavropoulos) for stitching together the elongated silhouettes of two chicken sheds to create a house, whose 30m long volume seeps with light and yet possesses an admirable structural sturdiness.

Located along a quiet village lane in the Cotswolds’ Ampney St Mary, the house disappears into the landscape – so seamless is the architects’ work in fitting together the rugged façade of timber and Cotswold stone with its bucolic setting.

The front and lower section of the house is sheathed with dry stone walls, but for the windows in the slightly loftier rear volume, shou sugi ban – the Japanese technique of weather-proofing wood – was used to char the larch panels to a deep leathery black, after which the burn was steel brushed away to create an ombré effect.

The glazing is minimised and concentrated around the internal courtyard – a bijou cocoon of calm and light that was cut out of the front volume and hidden behind the elevation – so that it does not interrupt the heavier, almost monolithic lines.

This, along with other gestures – including using local craftsmen and materials, and carefully framing the windows around bucolic views – have created a house that the architects say is crisp and new, and yet feels embedded in the land. As if it’s always been there.

‘This is a house with a very functional character,’ says lead architect Mavropoulos, ‘but it also has that element of surprise, which is key in our work.’ Which is as good a reason as any for the chicken to cross the road. §

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