In a two-stage barn conversion project, architect Xavier van der Heyden created a spacious family house that is a harmonious blend of the old and the new. The secret behind it? A logical master plan and love of natural materials allowing a contemporary design to be integrated into a rich architectural tradition.

Project details

Project Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium
Architect Atelier XVDH - Xavier van der Heyden, Ottignies
Client Atelier XVDH - Xavier van der Heyden, Ottignies
Facing bricks Terca Blauwe Paepesteen

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Barn conversion project in Ottignies, Belgium © Dries Van den Brande

Renovation sometimes requires long-term planning

Sometimes it requires long-term planning if requirements, flexibility, sustainability targets and the available budget have to be reconciled. This project perfectly illustrates this point. In 2002, the architect Xavier van der Heyden converted a barn with a basement into a compact house. From the very start, the architect made allowances for a larger family. The actual accommodation facilities as well as a vertical stairwell with front door and hallway were added; an appropriate family budget provided, this could be used as the focal point for a extension added at a later date.
 
This new part has now been realised. Sophistication in both the design and the use of materials meant that the architect was able to forge a cohesive whole from the old and new parts, while nevertheless keeping them clearly distinct. A striking element is the choice of Blue Terca Paepesteen as facing brick for the new part. The braised bricks clearly distinguish the extension from the red masonry facing of the former barn. The separate identity is emphasized by using a thin-bed laying method and integrating the rainwater downpipes into the wall. At the same time, it is clear from the dark colour accents provided by the double-fired clay bricks in the façade of the original part that the two outer walls belong together.
 
“The fired Blue Terca Paepesteen is a reference to the shades you can see in the double-fired facing bricks that were used in the original barn”, adds the architect.
The distinction can be seen in other details as well. The new part is higher, its front is closer to the street and it extends further back into the garden, so that a sheltered patio was created in the corner where the two volumes meet. The unity is then created by the typical gabled roofs and the aluminium window frames. The new part is, of course, very well insulated and set up to be sustainable. Architect Xavier van der Heyden on the advantages of the clay material: “The bricks act as a temporary heat reservoir, only releasing it again slowly, and thus add to the level of comfort for the residents throughout the year. Ceramic building materials are good for sustainable architecture: the raw materials and the production are local and the product properties help create a pleasant and healthy environment to live in.”
 
Additionally, a GSHP (ground source heat pump) in the extension provides cooling in the summer and warm air for heating in the winter. Solar control glazing prevents overheating on hot days, while allowing sun rays in during the winter. The architecture bonds the design and the benefits of the residence together.

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