House Inspiration: Glass Farm

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I always say that I like to see traditional techniques used in contemporary ways, and this building pushes that idea to its limits. This shop and office complex designed by Dutch architects MVRDV is disguised as an old farmhouse, but its walls and roof are actually made from glass. The building, called Glass House, is in the market square of Schijndel, a small Dutch town where MVRDV partner Winy Maas grew up. The town suffered damage during World War II, and Maas has been campaigning since the 1980s to replace a destroyed structure in the center of the square. Thirty years and six failed proposals later, he has has finally realised his dream by creating a glass structure printed with images of traditional local farmhouses. Using a fritting technique the architects were able to print the images straight onto the glass, creating the illusion of brick walls and a thatched roof. The actual windows and doors don't line up with the printed images, so entrances look like they pass through brick walls and windows appear as semi-transparent blobs. The building is also out of scale with the original farmhouses, so it appears to be two storeys high rather than three."When adults interact with the building, they can experience toddler size again," say the architects, "possibly adding an element of nostalgic remembrance to their reception of the building." What do you think? Do you like the building? It is certainly a unique way of overcoming the many planning restrictions in rural conservation areas.

House Inspiration: Modern Thatch

Everyone is familiar with traditional thatched roofs and although they are pretty, I do find them a little twee. However, these contemporary versions designed by Dutch architects Arjen Reas and Bureau B+B are undeniably striking and they illustrate how traditional vernacular materials can (and should) be updated in modern ways.

The first two images are of a domestic housing project called Living on the Edge, designed by Arjen Reas. Located on the outskirts of the city of Zoetermeer, the location, between city and countryside, inspired this house that blends urban and rural architecture. The dense fuzzy thatch, applied to every surface of the exterior is sculpted into a graphic interpretation of an archetypal house and punctuated in places by glass and white plaster.

The second two images show Het Entreehuis, designed by Bureau B+B. Also in the Netherlands, this house was inspired by agricultural barns of the local area and features a thatched roof that stops at a neat border of wood. With the thatch set flush inside a wooden frame, this modern interpretation creates a refined aesthetic and forces us to reconsider traditional materials and their usage.