Motiv Architects Inc.
Langley, British Columbia, Canada
The Swallowfield Barn is a humble barn, subtly inserted into a modest farmyard, designed with workshops and storage for simple inhabitants - resident cattle, swine, sheep, fowl, cats, and barn owls. MOTIV designed both the building and the process in the grassroots barn raising tradition, using simple repeatable details, constructed with the help of the farmers’ friends and family, with Architect Asher deGroot serving as site supervisor throughout. Build-days brought up to 40 people together, sharing hard work and good food.
The simplicity of the barn’s form is an homage to vernacular North American barns, visible across pastures from neighbouring farms, a testament to the community building process that shaped it. It is built to function within the farmyard, improving the existing outbuildings and spaces around it. It is built to last – honouring the material culture and history of place and people. The building is clad entirely in Douglas fir siding, reclaimed from prior use as
board form concrete formwork. The marks and stains of the boards’ previous use are left visible, maintaining the patina and memory as the material ages and weathers.
The free spanning cathedral roof structure was conceived of in collaboration with world renowned wood engineer Eric Karsh. The expressive structure consists of closely spaced LVL moment frames with a unique flush ridge connection, achieved with a pair of glued-in threaded rods run through to clamp the intersecting rafter. The repetitive structure draws the eye upward to the linear skylight at the ridge. The space requires no daytime lighting and is naturally heated during the shoulder seasons. The whole roof structure was raised into place in four hours.
Below the loft, the ground floor is spacious and functional with multiple entries and generous alleys to move large equipment and animals, while integrating with the existing barn directly to the south. Large sliding doors create a generous indoor-outdoor work area – protected by the roof overhang above.
The Swallowfield Barn by MOTIV Architects is an example of New Wood Open Architecture because the building process is a group activity for which the community participates, the reclaimed wood materials are celebrated and the interior is easily changed to suit a wide variety of current/future uses. This project used the building process as an opportunity to involve the surrounding neighbours and foster a sense of community. The tradition of barn raising is honoured while demonstrating how it can have positive social implications in contemporary architecture and society at-large. By reclaiming the Douglas fir siding, the project demonstrates how some wood materials maintain social and cultural value despite their age or condition. In this case, these factors become an homage to the building it once clad. By reusing the siding, the carbon remains sequestered within the wood fibers and drastically offsets the embodied carbon of the project at-large. Finally, the resulting interior is highly flexible and resilient to future change. The LVL moment frames direct all loads to the exterior of the building allowing for no interior load bearing walls. The loft space is intentionally left open as it functions as a community gathering space. When the spatial needs of the community changes, the interior of the barn can easily be modified.The Swallowfield Barn by MOTIV Architects is an example of New Wood Open Architecture because of the celebrated reclaimed wood materials, the resilient interior layout and community building process.