Pascal François brings a contemporary spin to a barn conversion
Located in the countryside around Lokeren, Belgium, this two-storey family farmhouse is a confident marriage between old and new, created by the Aalst-based studio of architect Pascal François.
The design solution was largely defined by the symbiosis of the site’s existing architecture (an old barn, containing the property’s stables) and François’ residential addition. This new volume, designed to replace the farm’s now-demolished original house, slots with ease underneath the existing barn’s roof, locking the two volumes together. Due to the area’s strict planning laws, the buildings could not connect, so the two volumes craftily appear to join but do not affect each other structurally.
Another driving concept in the design was the use of light within the house. Large windows, internal openings and light shafts shed plenty of natural light throughout. To catch the morning sun, the kitchen (located at the junction where the old and new volumes meet) extends beneath the barn’s roof. This way, the easterly light that permeates the barn is then funnelled into the kitchen through an internal skylight.
The overall character of Lokeren House was informed by the barn’s existing materials and colour palette. ’The barn is the most important volume on the site,’ says François, ’so we decided to give it this important role in the project.’ To echo the barn’s timber frame, timber cladding envelops the ground floor of the new structure and extends around the sides of the barn. Described by the architect as the ’wooden ribbon’, this timber strip occasionally opens up to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows. On the south side, the ribbon morphs into a decked terrace.
Embedded within this wooden skin is the main entrance, on the home’s northern façade. Once inside the house, the visitor is led through a corridor that divides the building into two distinct spaces: one hosts a monochromatic dining and living area; the other contains the owners’ office and storage facilities. The end of the corridor is open, framing the view of the garden stream. This gesture, through its views and reflections, cleverly brings the surrounding green landscape into the house.
On the floor above are the bathrooms and three bedrooms, engulfed by a ceramic-tile skin. Both the material and colour refer to the traditional ceramic-tiled roof of the barn, further underlining this project’s key relationship between old and new.