Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

 

When Mum and Dad ask you to build them a house, as an architect you’ve got a bit of latitude; creative freedom if you will. You also have a budget that Mum and Dad will never let you forget. And you have a long-term relationship with them that will outlive any traditional client/architect relationship you’ve ever had. So you’d better not stuff it up, not unless you plan to hear about it for the rest of your life.

In this case, it wasn’t a house but a barn in rural Langley, BC, Canada that said parents asked their architect son to build. MOTIV Architects, you’ll be relieved to hear, did not stuff it up. Nor did they exceed the budget. Instead, they used community volunteer labour and numerous recycled materials for the build, which allowed the project to be constructed on a modest budget.

Swallowfield had two objectives – to act as a humble barn designed for simple inhabitants – resident cattle, swine, sheep and a workshops with storage for a modest hobby farm. Second, it was to express the simplicity of the vernacular building forms of the North American barns, visible across the pastures from neighbouring farms. The hayloft was conceived as a vibrant community gathering space, suitable for hosting concerts, weddings, art shows, poetry readings, fundraisers and long-table dinners serving an abundance of food from the small farm.

The barn’s striking, off-kilter, roof profile creates a warm and inviting entrance visible on axis through the gardens and orchards from the farmhouse. The frames of the roof structure were constructed completely on site and raised into place in less than 4 hours. The free spanning cathedral structure was conceived in collaboration with world-renowned timber engineer Eric Karsh. It showcases the potential for engineered timber celebrated in an exposed application, whereby a humble material is elevated to new heights, expressing the beauty of its strength and simplicity.

 

Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

Swallowfield Barn in Langley, BC, Canada by MOTIV Architects | Yellowtrace

 

As one climbs the stairs, the repetitive roof structure immediately draws the eye upward to the long linear skylight at the ridge – this infuses the space with warmth and a calming diffused light. The barn requires no daytime lighting and is naturally heated during the shoulder seasons.

The building is clad entirely in vertical Douglas fir, reclaimed from its prior use. Here, the marks and stains of the board’s previous life as concrete formwork are left visible, maintaining the patina and memory as the material ages and weathers.

Whilst at the end of the day it may be just a simple barn, this building also weaves together an architecturally emotional complexity. Here we have not just a community that uses the resultant space, but a community that built the barn together with their own hands. It is perhaps the very expression of these simple materials and objectives that make the end result so poignantly layered and rich.

 

Related: Stories On Design // Barn House Conversions.

 

 


[Images courtesy of MOTIV Architects. Photography by Ema Peter.]

 

About The Author

Susanna McArdle

Susanna has a background in Interior Architecture and a passion for writing. Based in Sydney, she has worked both in Asia and Australia designing. An avid writer, it’s hard to know what she prefers more, stringing words together or creating spaces. But one thing she does know, is that she loves doing the both together.

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