Project description by jury
This renovation and transformation project of an abandoned farm in the center of Siewiller, a small town in north-east France, creates housing for elderly people. The proposal includes the retrofit of four existing volumes positioned to form a U shape, and the design of a new structure to enclose and focus the complex around the resulting courtyard converted into the core of the shared domestic experience. Beyond the residential units, the common house accommodates spaces for some public facilities, including an office for social services, a small library and a multipurpose room. The courtyard is also designed to occasionally host private or public events, like small local festivals.
The semi-public features of the complex allow its senior inhabitants to maintain and nurture their connection with the community while creating new social aggregation opportunities for the entire village. The architectural language adopted for the renovation process is very respectful of the town’s historical character. The existing buildings are salvaged without altering their original aspects, and the new intervention achieves a dialog with the context while showing a distinct, contemporary aspect. The project privileges the use of local materials, notably wood, stone, straw for insulation and hempcrete, that ensure the low-embedded energy of the complex and offer high environmental performance.
Can architecture revive historic rural villages? This is the question addressed by the project which received high praise from the Holcim Awards jury Europe. The revitalization and sustainable development of small towns is a contemporary challenge for architects and urban planners. Social sustainability implies strengthening a place through its community and local identity. The project’s methodology for salvaging both tangible and non-tangible elements of Siewiller, through the discrete and elegant refurbishment of the rural fabric transformed into a retirement home, was recognized as a gesture of great sensitivity that embraces sustainability under the environmental, social and economic aspects.See more
As a Main category prize winner in the regional Holcim Awards 2020, Rural Catalyst in France automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global Holcim Awards 2021.
The program for this project calls for transforming an abandoned farm into senior residences. The new facility should not only provide housing for the elderly but create a new community center to enrich social life in the small village of Siewiller.The architectural language harmonizes with the historic fabric of the village. The four old farm buildings were rehabilitated and expanded without destroying their original character. The appropriate revitalization and sustainable development of small towns is a contemporary challenge for architects and urban planners, says the jury. Social sustainability implies strengthening a place through its community and local identity. “We are reusing existing buildings in order to conserve material resources,” explains main author Florent Revel of N01 architecture, Strasbourg, France. “The project is building a new future based on a very common and ordinary heritage.”Read more »
Building new sociable places into rural territories
For a long time, rural territories stayed far away from architectural and political consideration. In the second half of the twentieth century, the car and the TV radically changed the way of life of the countryside’s inhabitants. The transformation of an abandoned farm in the town center gives us the possibility to create a new sociable place. The old house becomes the common house of Siewiller, hosting some public services (office for social services, a small library, a multipurpose room). It becomes a place that every inhabitant can use for some events. The inner courtyard, open on all peripheral spaces, extends the concept of common house by a shared outside space. The metamorphosis of an old farm into a place where everyone live daily is a way to push this heritage into the future.
The local resources, a global issue
The overall project was complex due to the variety of interventions, from the new building to the simple reuse of an existing space. However, they are all done in a unique direction, using some local resources and involving local economic agents. The wood structure, the straw for insulation, the hemp concrete or the lime concrete can be produced in a small perimeter (50km). Some local agent can be implied, linking the people affect into the transformation of the town centre, as much as a way to reduce carbon emission and environmental impact. The project belongs as much to a local situation as to a more global direction to take in the French countryside.
Architectural language as a historical continuity
The architectural language takes an active part to the revitalization of the town center. Without any dogmatic statement the project emphasizes the qualities of the existing building. In some point, it will just insert new uses into old spaces, in some other, solely a wall or a casing will be kept. The project builds a continuity between a previous and a future state without any “tabula rasa”. It avoids a strong breaking, using the existing building in a pragmatic way, and building the new ones with strong references to the architectural language of the close environment. The wood column superimposed on a stone foot or the colonnade belongs to the traditional figures of the region. The project tries to make inhabitants feeling familiar to the metamorphose of their town center.See more
The project is based on a construction with local materials, built up by local agents. Our focus is on three points:
An abandoned farm is transformed into a retirement home that revitalizes dynamics and enhances social sustainability in …
Author comment by Florent Revel, Architect in Strasbourg, France on Rural Catalyst in France – Farmhouse conversion and …
Our website search engine covers the web pages including project descriptions and expert profiles, PDFs, images and videos on the Holcim Foundation website. To improve your search results, here are some tips:
Our search defaults to term-pairing AND. If you search sustainable construction - then the search engine will look for any items containing sustainable AND construction
photovoltaic OR solar
Looks for either word
(clay OR mud) AND (school OR university)
Combine alternative terms for more specific searching
Excludes a term from results, automatically ANDs other terms listed
Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase or combination
Asterisk (*) matches any word or phrase - so archit* will find architect, architecture, architectural as well as architrave