by Amarjeet Singh TomarJun 21, 2023
The building industry worldwide plays a significant role in impacting climate change. For generations it has furthered climate change and its effects globally. With increased awareness and education, the industry is now leaning towards solutions that are geared towards mitigating the climate crisis instead of furthering it. In addition to constructing environmentally friendly buildings that reduce energy consumption and implement efficient designs, it is also paramount to refurbish and revive old buildings instead of demolishing them to make way for new ones.
Belgium-based Objekt Architecten took on exactly that, when they refurbished an old farmhouse in Lennik, Belgium. Set amidst the serene Pajot greenery, the site was composed of a house, a workshop, and adjoining buildings around a courtyard. With the original structure providing ample opportunity for creative intervention, the architects focussed on incorporating the outbuildings into the main house while maintaining the original character of the house. Consequently, the Hinge Farmhouse is an example of unique residential design that boasts a perfect balance of the old and the contemporary-architecture.
The primary challenge of this refurbishment was to create a connection between the various units of the farmhouse to design a cohesive domestic environment. The architects resolve this challenge by creating a central circulation tower. A home office sits at the top of the tower, offering its occupants breath-taking 360 degree views of the surrounding woods, fields, and courtyard. Under the office, the tower serves as the central stairwell, seamlessly linking the two primary buildings and facilitating coherent movement between linked secondary spaces. It acts like a hinge, bringing together the different areas of the house while maintaining their distinct identities, thus giving the farmhouse its name.
The entrance to the structure originally situated within the courtyard was reimagined to be at the rear of the new hinge. This redefined the courtyard, converting it into a secluded oasis that remains concealed until one enters the house. The ground floor of the house accommodates new living spaces that experience stunning unobstructed views. The ground floor also includes an office area, a dining area, kitchen and more.
On the first floor, the tower acts as a division that separates spaces for the parents from areas dedicated to the children. The section dedicated to the parents features a spacious bedroom and bathroom along with a rooftop patio. The patio features an outdoor shower space that enhances the connection between the interior and exterior spaces. The other side of the tower caters to the children, housing small sleeping units designed in an open space. These units act like their personal cocoons. These spaces are surrounded by play and workspaces and a separate bathroom. The segregated sections create a sense of privacy and individuality while maintain the flow of spaces through the house.
Throughout the house, several patios are strategically positioned, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape without compromising privacy. These spaces deepen the connection between the interior and exterior spaces of the private residence. Future plans for these patios include a swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen, and lush green gardens that will eventually completely surround the house.
In addition to thoughtful planning, the house features a carefully selected material palette. The visual impact of the new tower-shaped volume is accentuated by the use of red brick, which stands in stark contrast to the whitewashed facades of the existing buildings. This contrast is reflective of the combination of new and old throughout the house. The architects adopted the principles of the Japanese art style Kintsugi, which celebrates imperfections and repairs as part of an object's history. Instead of hiding the renovation efforts, the architects make the ingenious choice of displaying the additions and corrections, demonstrating the Kintsugi approach. The 'scars' on the building were carefully highlighted using the same red brick that adorns the tower, creating a cohesive and uniquely striking external appearance.
“We chose to apply the Japanese Kintsugi philosophy, embracing an object's imperfections or signs of wear and tear," shares Steven de bolle of Objekt Architecten. By seamlessly, yet very visibly, blending the old and the new, Objekt Architecten's have created a unique residence that offers its residents a harmonious living experience. But the house holds importance beyond this. It is an exhibition of why rehabilitation instead of demolition is not only the more sustainable choice, but also the more sensitive choice as it acknowledges the historical significance woven into these structures. With its changes highlighted, the Hinge Farmhouse will continue to tell its story through its spaces and facades and become yet another example supporting the argument for adaptive reuse in buildings.