Being an architect is handy for, you know, designing cloud towers and giant garden peninsulas. It's also a convenient way to cure one's hometown of dysfunctional spaces that have been allowed to fester for decades. MVRDV's Winy Maas, who grew up in the Dutch farming village Schijndel, has wanted to do something about the town's oversized, empty-looking village square since 1980, when he first wrote to the mayor at the age of 20. The square had been damaged in a World War II and sorely needed a new building to return it to human scale. Three decades later, Maas got his wish, and he and partners Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries gave the town... a thematically appropriate but actually kind of triptastic photocollaged glass farmhouse!
Housing shops, restaurants, offices, and a health center, the Glass Farm joins the church and the town hall on the village square. The architects used a fritting technique to print the entire 19,375-square-foot glass facade with a composite image of a farmhouse, derived from all the remaining farms around Schijndel. Artist Frank van der Salm took all the photos that generated the composite image, making the Glass Farm—to absolutely butcher Don DeLillo—the most photographed farmhouse in the Netherlands.
Photo courtesy of Persbureau van Eijndhoven
The photocollage approach creates some strange perceptions. The building's actual openings don't line up with the images of the farmhouse windows and doors, so that the house appears to be riddled with translucent portals. But all these pleasant distortions allowed the architects to answer the public's desire for a vernacular building, and with a contemporary twist. The Glass Farm is actually the seventh building that MVRDV proposed for the site; they've been working since 2000 to find a design that would please the locals.
The architects scaled the building at 1.6 times the size of a typical farmhouse: The image of the farm door is 13 feet tall. "When adults interact with the building, they can experience toddler size again, possibly adding an element of nostalgic remembrance to their reception of the building," write the architects.
Later this year, look out for a book documenting the development of Glass Farm from NAi Publishers.
All photos courtesy of MVRDV except where noted.