A badly deteriorating barn in northeastern France has been reborn as a beautiful and contemporary social housing scheme. French architecture studio GENS transformed the gabled barn into “South,” a collection of five housing units for elderly residents who are unable to care for their former homes. Located next to the town hall in Velle-sur-Moselle, the converted barn also features a contemporary new facade clad in beautiful blue-gray fiber-cement shingles and corrugated aluminum.
Like all great adaptive reuse projects, “South” combines aspects of the building’s original character with a new, updated style. The architects retained the agricultural building’s distinctive gabled form, but gutted the interior and revamped the exterior with three shingled sides and a fourth facade clad in shiny corrugated aluminum. “We wanted to ‘hide’ the project within this very banal look,” said GENS’ architect Guillaume Eckly to Dezeen, explaining why the firm chose to clad the building with fiber-cement shingles. “Something that would ultimately look old and a bit shabby, like any village. And of course it has a wonderful presence: fabric like, changing softly with shadows or dew.” A barely visible extension is also added to the end of the building and a glazed passageway connects the converted barn to the town hall next door.
Designed with a bioclimatic and airtight envelope, the former barn interior comprises five units: three ground floor apartments for the elderly; a shared common space; and a pair of maisonettes on the upper level. Large triple-glazed sliding doors and windows let in natural light, which reflects off the interior’s mostly white walls and tall ceilings. Light wooden window frames, ceiling beams, and stairways provide a warm contrast to the use of white. While the interior is mostly white to allow residents to add their own personality to the building, the architects did include a few pops of color, from the light blue patterned wallpaper that lines a corridor to the pastel pink tiling in the kitchen.
Images via GENS: Association Libérale d’Architecture