INFOSProject: CONVERSION OF AN ANCIENT SHEEP AND HAY BARN INTO A HOME
Completion date: 04/2023
Location: Peralada, Alt Emporda, SPAIN
Architect: Paola Bagna & Jonas Labbé
Area: 150 m2
The brief for this project was to transform a former sheep and hay barn located in Catalonia, into a home for a family.
The plot on which the project is located is situated in the south-east of the town of Peralada, in the Alt Empordà region. The property is used for sheep farming, rural tourism and housing.
To the south side of the barn is a wide esplanade which offers a gathering space and primary access to all the buildings in the ensemble. To the north side or rear, there is a gravel path and orchards.
The barn, built in 1930, is situated between party walls. It has only two façades, facing south and north respectively, and is sandwiched between the old farmhouse or “Masia” from the 1920s and the main family home built in the 1970s.
The original south facade has two large openings in the form of a semicircle, and a wooden doorway. The doorway allowed access for agricultural machinery. The two large openings allowed light from the south to dry the straw and grain stored in the upper floors. The original south façade is of handmade brick and the north façade is a stone wall about 50 cm thick. The roof is a single-pitched tile roof.
At the start of the project, the interior structures supporting the wooden beams, the roof and the intermediate slabs were only two arches and two brick pillars.
The client wanted the space to feel light and generous, maintaining an open-plan and loft-like proportion, despite the functional subdivisions required for use as a home. A rural loft, filled with light while enjoying the long views out onto the surroundings.
The original materiality and construction elements were the guidelines for defining the project and developing it.
In order to give natural light and ventilation to all the new spaces, an entrance patio was created past the original wooden doorway, which forms a void that symbolically recovers the space originally used for the agricultural machinery.
This outdoor space also creates a more intimate exterior living area on the ground floor, where the openings of the new living room and the multi-purpose space can open up completely, connecting the entire ground floor not only visually, but also in terms of movement. The living room extends into the patio. An inside-outside effect.
The new home is organised on two levels, with the common family spaces and multi-purpose work area situated on the ground floor to the left and right respectively. Like the patio, the staircase occupies a central interior area in the form of a generous double height space. The bedrooms are on the first floor and also open onto the patio and the south façade in their original semicircular geometry. All services are on the northernmost side, on both ground and first floors.
The stone wall of the north façade is retained in its entirety and is thermally insulated on the outside, so that the original materiality is passed from the inside out.
In order to understand this constructive element in its maximum expression in width and height, the first floor slab does not continue all the way to the stone wall, allowing the kitchen-dining area to open vertically to the roof, generating a double space and achieving visual connections from top to bottom.
The inclusion of an intermediate slab meant that the powerful semicircular shape of the façade was lost on the ground floor and was only understood from the rooms on the first floor as well as from the exterior.
The language of these geometric arches was therefore reintroduced within the interior spaces - allowing it to be present in new interior openings and in the separation between the staircase and the kitchen-dining room as a quarter of a circle, which incorporates a new structural pillar and, together with the staircase, are presented as sculptures inside the house.
All original materials are kept and reintroduced in the project.
The project places these original materials (handmade brick, stone and the tiles from the under-deck, which were reused in the new roof) in constant dialogue with the new materials (ceramic tiles on the floors, oak on the window frames, white lacquered metal, white plaster, earthen plaster and poplar wood in the kitchen), creating a modern space that emphasizes the history of the building.
The original brick arches are maintained on the right side of the entrance patio on ground level and two new arches, also semicircular, separate the kitchen-dining room from the living room.
The brick party wall in the kitchen, which overlooks the pre-stressed concrete beams, is maintained, highlighting once again the different periods and interventions of the property in the interiors.
The old materials provide tectonics and the new materials, following the tradition, have smoother and more homogeneous textures and pastel colours.
The original wooden beam of the roof is re-used as a bench in the entrance area.
Three new facades of the patio are plastered and have regular openings of the same size to differentiate them from the original geometry and materiality.
The original south façade maintains its original openings, only a door is added on the right hand side connecting the exterior with the multi-purpose space.
It also maintains the exposed brickwork and is partially plastered to cover areas where the original brickwork was of poorer quality.
The new home achieves a rhythm in its spaces: there are more secluded rooms, recovering the idea of the vernacularity of the Catalan farmhouses, together with decompressed and more lofty areas, such as the double height in the kitchen-dining, the staircase and the patio.
In summary this project is a play of materials, geometries, light, textures, past and present, in a new home that provides comfort and remains connected to its surroundings and the roots of this unique ensemble.