Words:
Carl Turner

Related Projects:
Stealth Barn
Ochre Barn

Photography:
Tim Crocker
Pano Stills
Ioana Marinescou

Increasingly we think the Green Belt in its present form isn’t working. Most of the UK is rural, and we don’t have enough space for everyone on the city. Not everyone can cope with city life either. While the Green Belt was a sound principle, in practice it has preented people from lower incomes enjoying country living by putting a huge premium on parcels of land meaning only the wealthy can build there. Gone are the days when you could cobble together a holiday shack somewhere peaceful out of salvage, let alone tackle the planning system.

As a lifelong city dweller the countryside has always had a magnetic pull. The grass is always greener syndrome: a yearning for space. This resulted in Mary and myself buying a crumbling set of barn buildings in an unfashionable area of Norfolk in 2006, where we envisaged a meeting place for a kind of hippy commune of friends and family. Ochre Barn took six years of every spare weekend and holiday, and a lot more money than anticipated to complete.

The project also spawned the Stealth Barn , which was short-listed for the Architects’ Journal’s Small Projects Award in 2012 and demonstrates how a small pre-fabricated structure, capable of being a small home or flexible country workspace, can be built for very little. Rural affordability is within reach.

This self-initiated project has directly resulted in a commission to convert a complex of listed barns in North Norfolk, and gave clients the confidence to appoint us to design an earth sheltered house in New Forest in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The countryside is a scary place after all. For those who can’t bear to leave the town, we built Magnificent Container – bringing the countryside to the city.