At Hadspen in Somerset, a 750 acre estate, one of the dominant topographical features is the valley that runs south from the main house to the farm yard at ‘Shatwell’. As part of an overall restructuring of the buildings of the farm and the spaces between them, the new cowshed, a home to eighty cattle, places its ‘covered feed’ on the axis of the valley.
There is a long tradition at Hadspen which sees utilitarian agricultural buildings participate in a careful spatial ordering with architectural ambitions exceeding their functional stature. Acknowledgement of the building’s civic role within the farmstead is heightened by the craft of its heavy concrete construction which contrasts with the prefabricated steel shed of the animal enclosure.
Much inspired by the Barchessas of the Italian Renaissance, the colonnade is part of a greater story of contribution to the wider public realm: architecture as gift to the city. In this way it is a mere participant in a collective idea of landscape at Hadspen and is not alone in its links to the English Picturesque.
The long heritage of the estate; the inevitable adjustments to its fabric over time and changes in use of many of its buildings, goes some way to explain the juxtaposition of construction elements of this building.
Part immutable, part contingent, part heavy concrete colonnade and part prefabricated steel and timber shed – it can be imagined in another age – post its current use – and even as object of ruin within the landscape, akin to those of the ancient world.
In other ways the cow shed is part of a continuing tradition at Hadspen of an architectural culture and material association. Several generations of its occupants have sought to heighten the architectural pretentions of its utilitarian and agricultural buildings before, such as a finely proportioned Palladian façade to the stables building on the north western approach to the main house.
Images © David Grandorge
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