What Tina Govan likes about the “Broken China” Farmhouse she designed and built in rural North Carolina is its strength and simplicity. “The structure and the materials speak for themselves,” she said. “It’s really clear how this building was put together.”
It was built with a frame and lightweight, malleable Hebel block. The load-bearing walls exceed code insulation requirements, so no additional insulation – and no drywall – was required. The walls inside match those outside – with a color reminiscent of the clay soil surrounding its ten-acre site.
“The block has plaster applied to it,” she said. “We picked up some of the marl from the road outside, and matched its color in the plaster.”
The Hebel blocks are sculptural – and meaningful to this architect, who has a history of working with clay. “It’s a soft material,” she said. “You can carve into it with a wood saw, and use sandpaper on the corners.”
Its windows bring home the power of framing the natural environment outside. Through them, a viewer can witness the changes of day and night, as well as all four seasons, while soybeans, wheat and grapes flourish in the fields outdoors. “Even as you walk down the stairs, you can see the changes outside,” she said. “The frames are like dynamic paintings with life in them.”
The “Broken China” Farmhouse is at once a vernacular and modern abode – a strong, simple and honest structure that reveals its own composition and that of its surroundings. “It’s clearly not hiding anything,” Govan said. “I wanted a building that blended in with its environment, but that offered the surprise of discovery when you get inside.”
And Trenton, N.C. is better off for it.
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