Many rural areas are mix of catalogue homes and DIY flair. Between them, however, there are people who strive to live and build sustainably – a particularly welcome development in the current climate, where an awareness of context and landscape and of regional skills and materials is more important than ever.
The architecture office of Gründer Kirfel in Bedheim is part of a growing scene of rural architects who are again turning to the practice of self-building. As the owners of Bedheim Castle, a former manor estate, they can look back on a rich cultural heritage – a heritage that requires corresponding management and care, both architecturally and economically. Their response was to build simple, good-quality architecture using regional materials. The 20-person strong community at Bedheim Castle is especially committed to the rural environment at a practical, intellectual, communal and individual level. Their focus is on cultivating quality of life in the countryside, developing the cultural landscape and promoting building culture in rural areas. The Sh/leep barn, a self-built guesthouse on the site of a former barn on the castle grounds is a prime example.
The guiding principle was to realise the building as a self-build project. The initiative became an IBA project in 2017 and gained funding as a ‘model project for regional development’ from the Thuringian Ministry of Infrastructure. The many helpers included carpenters on the tramp, a master roofer and the building workshop at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
The simple timber-frame structure unites analogue craftsmanship with standardised materials and regular timber connections from the hardware store. Construction began in 2017 and four weeks later, thanks to the skilled carpenters, the topping out ceremony was held to mark completion of the frame structure.
The Sh/leep barn opened in 2018 and contains bedrooms and a dormitory, toilets and washing facilities, a kitchen and dining room, as well as storage for heating fuel. The barn is already much in demand and has gained recognition in the architectural press, including being shortlisted for the German Architecture Museum’s DAM 2020 prize.