By Eva Bjerring
MVRDV has printed a full farmhouse in Schijndel, a medieval village in the southern Netherlands and the hometown of MVRDV co-founder Winy Mass. Or at least left the skin of the town centres’ glass façade in the hands of a well-equipped fritting machine before wrapping the whole body in printed glass with motives from the best of the average from local history.
The Glass Farm is an exact 1.6 times mock up of a local, traditional farm housing shops, restaurants, offices and a wellness centre instead of geese and cows.
It is a brave and interesting take on how to upgrade an old, historical and emotional spot once housing the market square before it was largely destroyed during Second World War.
An uncompromising design takes a lot of compromises
The 1800 m2 glass skin with photorealistic motifs of different characteristics from the areas’ traditional farmhouses did not come about in a flash.
The design is the result of a divers series of very different projects and in the end great negotiation skills from the architects at MVRDV.
After having suggested 6 different designs, all of which were not accepted, the municipality of Schijndel together with the architect set up a design committee with citizens, future users, the municipality, the architect Winy Mass and other of interests and an opinion about the new city centre. Together they formed a set of rules about the new city centre.
“It took a long time to get to the seventh and final proposal. From the committee we were told not to build ‘too long’ or too short. In a compromise, we ended up with a length of 40 meters. In addition, the committee asked for a pitched roof to fit with the surroundings and give light to the streets, and by chance, we had created a sketch that looked a lot like the farms from the area, just exactly 1.6 times bigger,” project leader from MVRDV Gijs Rikken tells and continues:
“The committee then said: ‘if we do a barn-shape, we think it should be made from traditional materials like brick and tiles. Then Winy Mass asked: How about glass? ‘Yes’ they said – ‘glass is also traditional’ – and then our hands were free to do a barn, that looked like a barn without recreating the past.”
The average of the best
By printing the façade instead of actually building the lot MVRDV presents a very interesting and creative solution to how to upgrade a local style to the 21st century while keeping the identity of an old village.
The architects started mapping out all of the farms in the area, registering every detail and on this basis calculated an inclusive average of everything from the number of chimneys to the width of the doors.
Gijs Rikken tells: “The building is a community centre with the purpose of creating a social meeting place for all of the residents in Schijndel. By using the average of everything we found that we could create a building that inscribed itself in the area while avoiding emphasizing any particular feature or building over another.”
A glow in the dark
At first the committee was surprised and taken aback by the proposal that mildly put was not what they expected from a ‘local farm’-project, but the design grew on them and today the Glass Farm is highly appreciated by the villagers.
But the print has more to it than just mimicking the local style. The printed elements is a 1.6 times enlargement of the average measures, adding a playful and humorous tone to the building.
At night the more or less translucent façade glows in the dark lightening the town square, creating a welcoming and safe feel to the village centre.
Glass on the outside, steel on the inside
Having a full glass exterior shell meant that the design of the steel structure carrying the glass façade and roof, had to be extremely accurate.
“The structure of the building consists of concrete elements, while just the outer shell supporting the glass façade is steel. Steel is not as rigid as you could think, so we had to make a lot of adjustments to make all the elements come together correctly,” Gijs Rikken tells.
And you must say, that MVRDV has adjusted a lot of elements, not just the prefabricated ones, but every element of the building very intelligently meeting the needs of a village in growth. The building is a brave and yet refined and subdued take on a modern city centre in an old village.