Rodić Davidson Architects

Proposals submitted for farm buildings in the south of France


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Agricultural buildings are under threat in all parts of Europe; more so than any other building type. It is not only the case that changing agricultural practices have rendered our historic barns, pigsties, granaries, and cattle sheds redundant. Generally removed from population centres and development corridors, they tend to escape the attention of conservationists and property developers. As a consequence, they fall into a state of disrepair.

One way to address this issue is to reconceptualise these spaces as museum pieces, inviting the public to step into life on a ‘working farm’ inspired by a specific juncture in local cultural history. Another is to adapt them to accommodate the latest agricultural technologies, safeguarding their function while making substantial compromises insofar as the form and the materiality of the building is concerned. A third is to inject new life into their storied interiors by thinking carefully about what it means to bring a much-neglected building back to life.

Often, change of use is the most effective route to pursue. If conducted with care, it can mean retaining or even accentuating the most characterful elements of the building or structure whilst ensuring it remains fit for purpose in the twenty-first century. Invariably, it means working with concern for sustainability, context, and materiality, as opposed to an inherited function the contemporary technological climate is simply not able to accommodate.

Recognising the incredible value contribution of agricultural buildings to the Occitan landscape, Rodic Davidson placed environmentally sensitive, culturally informed, and socially responsible practices at the heart of their strategy for Mauroux, a historic farmstead a few miles from Beaumont-de-Lomagne. The unique attributes of the topography and its corresponding vernacular would be retained and reframed as it transitioned to use as a yoga retreat.

‘Reconnection’ would guide the design, construction, and reception processes as much as the programme of activities underway on the estate. Communities displaced by the collapse of the agricultural labour market would once again come together on an historic farm. The collection of diverse buildings would once again maintain a clear social and cultural relationship with one another. And the complex association between local people and their agricultural and natural environment would be restored, raising awareness of the challenges the region faced.

It was observed that the existing buildings were dispersed across the site, disconnected by the absence of historic supply corridors, but this could be remedied as clear visual and physical links were developed. Views from the existing terraced areas could be emphasised and framed with the addition of simple built structures. The agricultural buildings preceded the entry of Hatha Yoga into French life by several centuries, but the considered placement of roofline extensions, glass-faced mezzanine decks, and single-storey garden buildings implied a precedent.

With all projects at all scales, Rodic Davidson pride themselves in being able to add value through design. Their proposals for Mauroux demonstrate their skill at augmenting the potential financial and experiential currency of complex buildings in sometimes sensitive locations. Indeed, the Studio illustrates that change of use has the potential not only to preserve historic buildings, but to surpass the cost-benefit projections of their original designers.


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