Remodeling of a Farmhouse

The nineteenth-century farmhouse had been extended and remodelled multiple times. In its current residential use, it was to receive another update. Architects and client explored several possibilities from gentle reconstruction to far-reaching, contrasting adaptations, from new wood panelling to load-bearing timber ceilings, from retrofitted traditional box-type windows to modern metal window frames with insulating glazing. This entailed a careful evaluation of the complex building fabric, energy and conservation aspects, and substantial structural renovation, motivated not least by the pest infestation of existing beams and panelling.

Besides the former farmhouse, the existing buildings include a large barn and detached subsidiary structures. The farmhouse core, with massive stone walls and an attractive vaulted cellar, was enlarged to its present-day size in 1943. In the late 1980s, a south-eastern annex under the extended roof was remodelled as a sheltered sitting area with a fireplace, and a squat balcony was added beneath the roof projection. The house was also fitted with central heating and additional fir wood panelling. In the current update, the outer walls and the existing roof structure have been preserved, but the central load-bearing wall had to be replaced to ensure earthquake resistance. Instead a three-dimensional structure in fair-faced concrete has been inserted with openings and recesses for closets and a fireplace including the chimney, which replaces the former stove.

The kitchen space now extends across two storeys. It receives additional zenithal daylight through a large roof window that pierces the attic with a funnel-shaped reveal. A concrete bridge crosses the tall space and connects the bedrooms in the upper storey. The kitchen is a “stone room”, featuring fair-faced concrete surfaces, rendered walls and a floor of fragmented concrete paving. The surrounding rooms are conceived as wooden inserts, in analogy to the previous interior fit-out. Floors and walls are made of untreated, solid fir boards.

The outer walls were provided with interior insulation and two new, ample window openings. Three of the existing openings were enlarged and slightly repositioned, but the majority was left unchanged. The windows themselves were “reconstructed” in an unusual way: Traditional storm windows with wooden frames and bars were mounted in the old and new stone reveals. In contrast, the inner windows have insulated glazing in slender, black-brown steel frames. Dark sheet metal covers the deep interior reveals. The wooden shutters were refurbished and also added to the new windows.

A contrasting texture was introduced where the façade rendering had to be renewed or supplemented – coarse wet dash rendering on the smoothly finished sides, and fine stucco on the façades with rough existing rendering. Wooden slats, stained in brown, replace the previous wooden gable cladding to the southeast. Set with wider gaps, the slats also appear on the reconstructed, but lowered balcony, and on the formerly glazed patio, which thus reclaims the impression of an annex.

The garage was reconstructed with raw, load-bearing composite wood panels. Here, too, the walls are covered with vertical, dark brown wooden slats instead of the former fibre-cement cladding. The battens and counter battens remain untreated beneath the corrugated metal roof. A fossilized footprint in the form of a concrete slab testifies to the former chicken coop and pigsty and now serves as a summertime terrace in the middle of the meadow.

Location Canton Aargau, Switzerland

Programme Residential building

Commission 2014

Planning/Construction 2015–2017

Client private

Gross Floor Area 402 m2

Team G/G Christian Maggioni (Team and Site Management), Franziska Bächer (Project Manager)

Construction Management Annette Gigon / Mike Guyer Architekten, Zurich

Cost Planning/Scheduling Annette Gigon / Mike Guyer Architekten, Zurich

Structural Engineer Bänziger Partner AG, Baden

Electrical Engineer Enerpeak Salzmann AG, Dübendorf

Building Services Engineer Polke, Ziege, von Moos AG, Zurich

Building Physics Engineer BAKUS Bauphysik & Akustik GmbH, Zurich

Photos © Roman Keller