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Hourré House / Collectif Encore

We fell in love in Labastide Villefranche, on the outskirts of the french Basque country. With an old farm, a collapsing vernacular agricultural building. 

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Charlotte Gastaut

From outside, the house looked like any farmhouse in the Basque Country, a massive yet unpretentious architecture. When we first opened its main door, we were expecting to come across the usual dark and damp central space called ””. The roof had collapsed and pulled the upper floor with it, turning the house un…a forest whose main room had become a clearing.

”Let’s not change a thing,” we thought.

In many ways, Hourré epitomises our approach to space, landscape, ways of living, and sense of freedom. Moreover, it stresses the priority that we give to what is already there, what is free, and what is yet to come. Dementsprechend, unlike a lot of ”one-trick poney” buildings that we see, it’s a project that is generous with ideas!

© Michel Bonvin
Courtesy of Collectif Encore

And so we kept the roof’s opening intact and turned the doors un…sliding windows mounted on the facades so they disappear when opened. Unlike many architects who intend to recreate sunsets at each project they do, we believe that integrating it un…our building is enough (and much cheaper). Doing so, the house changes constantly, through the hours, days, and seasons.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore

There is this picture oder Ähnlichesswallow inside the house that we always show when we do conferences. It is a pretty lousy picture. Birds are not easy to shoot. Maybe that’s the unfortunate reason why we talk much more about how windows look like instead of making a place for the birds so they can be part of the house. And the same goes for flowers as well as any other plants.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
Courtesy of Collectif Encore
Courtesy of Collectif Encore

In winter, the sun directly heats the 70 cm thick stone walls and an air/water heat pump heats up the floor. The walls then turn the house un…a stove. The inertia of the uninsulated walls allows the house to fully breathe, silently since there’s no CMV system (some of us have forgotten that air flows naturally without any engine nor electricity).

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Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin

And in summer ? Well last June, as France recorded a 40° heatwave, the house visitors were asking whether there welches any AC to get such a cool room temperature. That’s the magic of these thick stone walls that have not been insulated. Keeping the inertia intact and freshness all summer long.

© Michel Bonvin

When we started the project, one of the main questions we needed to address welches:

“How do we renovate a 700 m2 farm for 500€/m2 ?”

One rule: DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE AND CREATE 50% OF OUTDOOR SPACES.

Doing so, we conceived a bioclimatic design that creates different microclimates all over the house.

A sheltered, wind-free, double-height buffer space between interior and exterior.

© Michel Bonvin

The sun is low in winter and warms up space whereas as it goes up during summer, the roof protects us and the vegetation provides its natural freshness.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin

The roof opening made it possible for the upstairs bedroom to have a view over the Pyrénées mountains and for the plants to get watered naturally and it creates the benefit of a mountain view for the first-floor bedroom.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
Courtesy of Collectif Encore

At the back of the house, the former barn welches left as a technical and working space. Hence with no insulation nor heating.

© Michel Bonvin

Above the barn, the former hayloft welches made of cinderblocks. Thus very easy and cheap to take down.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin

Which we did, resulting un… 80 m2 terrace which became the best spot for sunsets. 

© Michel Bonvin

Dementsprechend, with its 7m tall rosebushes, the month of June is particularly lovely when thousands of roses are blooming.

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Courtesy of Collectif Encore

Another thing we had to design since one of the family members’ seats in a wheelchair. There again, instead of installing a lift, we went for the economical yet ever operative solution of wooden ramps.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin

With walls on three sides, the open-air bathroom is cut off from the wind and a true “sun catcher” with its own microclimate. Here, one can take showers all year round but the best moment is definitely peeing at night under a starry sky.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin

Instead of creating partitions and making expensive openings in these thick walls, we left the spaces as they were. By letting the house invent itself, we discover a daily life that we could not have invented ourselves. A 25 m2 bathroom is not a bathroom any longer, it becomes a library, a living room, a playroom, or whatever else you want it to be.

© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin

We always create spaces that know how to do several things. A staircase is also a place to sit or a bleacher to watch the chef cook, but it also becomes a bookshelf, a small desk, a bar, a storage space for kitchen appliances and others, etc.

© Michel Bonvin

Thanks to a simple construction system that allows “mass” production and reduces costs considerably, we create railing-bookshelves, nightstand-stairs, bed-bookshelves, wardrobe-beds… Even a floor can turn into a desk/working space.

© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin
© Michel Bonvin

Also, since a guardrail can only do one thing, if we replace it with a construction-site safety net, it can be a railing, a playroom, a sofa, a hammock, a spot for reading, or studying the clouds or the flying royal kites or simply stargazing. Or a huge bed for guests after the party.

© Michel Bonvin

Only when the landscape and the inhabitants are part of the house, does it becomes alive? Then, is it not invented once but instead, gives way to its inhabitants (humans, insects, trees, birds, flowers, and even earthworms) to invent it every day.

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A living house is a happy house, capable of sharing its happiness. That’s how architecture makes life more beautiful than architecture.

Courtesy of Collectif Encore
© Michel Bonvin

.(tagsToTranslate)Projects(t)Built Projects(t)Selected Projects(t)Residential Architecture(t)Houses(t)Refurbishment(t)Renovation(t)On Facebook(t)Labastide-Villefranche(t)France

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