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Rural Studio

Architype's new Herefordshire offices show the firm practising what it preaches on sustainability, writes Oliver Lowenstein. Photography by Leigh Simpson

The ‘deep’ green sustainable architectural community is relatively invisible, but surfaces increasingly frequently in these frenetic days for environmentalism. The RIBA’s Sustainability Award this year went to one of these practices, Architype – one of the earliest and most committed sustainable architects. Its recent conversion of a Herefordshire stone ruin barn into its new West studio offices is an example of a green design approach along with an attempt at a sustainable lifestyle.

The barn at Upper Twyford Farm sits in the folds of a farming landscape near Hereford, and was nearly totally derelict when Architype head Jonathan Hines first visited the remaining standing walls seven years ago. Since then, the practice has restored it, transforming the ruin into a light-filled working studio. Architype’s landlord is the Duchy of Cornwall, and the success of the project has been instrumental in moving the regional Duchy office towards more sustainable practices.

Architype, which began life in south London in 1984 and employs 30 people, opened its satellite West office in 1995 to tackle work in rural areas. In a sense, Architype winning the RIBA’s award is a signal to consider rural culture more seriously as a credible architectural issue, as well as recognition of a practice that is passionate and excited about the countryside.

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