Argal Workshop has recently won recognition and was shortlisted for an RIBAJ McEwen Award.
We were approached by the emerging furniture and product designer practice James Smith Designs to transform Argal Home Farm, a Cornish former farmstead, into a vibrant and inspirational place to live and work. The built project stands as an exemplar for new rural workspace and community. Proposals were threefold: the creation of a new and highly specified timber workshop facility, the conversion of a traditional barn into studios for local creative enterprises and artist residencies, and the replacement of the farmhouse to provide a contemporary family home.
The design for the workshop and creative studios emerged from a client brief for very low-energy buildings which are sensitive to the outstanding surrounding landscape. A spirit of authenticity and simplicity was pursued in the reimagining of the farm, such that the evolving needs of the client and the new Argal community could be accommodated over time.
A redundant granite barn was taken as the starting point for the studios, with the workshop replacing an adjacent derelict stables. In keeping with the working medium of the furniture-maker client, timber in various forms was employed as a root material throughout: the workshop structure is in glulam with expressed jointing, external cladding is in larch and the internal finishes are in machined ply. The principles of the Passive House standard were followed, providing the workshop with exceptionally low embodied and operational carbon energy usage and, through the timber design, high levels of carbon sequestration.
Set within 14 acres of garden and pasture, the completed buildings provide 300sqm of workspace, which is fully occupied. The project reflects the client’s long-term financial and emotional commitment to the site as he creates an exceptional place to work and thrive for his own business and the growing entrepreneurial community around Falmouth which he supports and forms part of. Tenants include a coffee roaster, bespoke rucksack maker, sign-writer and a yoga studio. In an ongoing phase of work, Argal Farm will also provide the client’s future home.
The spirit of Argal as a place of nurture and nourishment is affirmed in its landscape design. Following principles of organic gardening and diversity of planting species, a large kitchen garden, orchard and native wild flower meadow are developing. Over 1,500 native broad leaf trees have already been planted for a combination of forestry and food production including oaks, chestnuts, cherries, apples and hazels. Through a nascent veg box scheme, residents of the creative studios and locals are invited to share the produce of the kitchen garden and this popular scheme is expected to grow in the longer term.
The project has benefited from an engaged and passionate client and, as the site matures, its success reinforces the value of understanding an initial brief and staying true to a concept. Argal is now a rich and diverse place, humming with natural life and energy. It shows how innovative design and architecture can promote a thriving rural workspace community in a sustainable and enduring way.
View Argal Workshop here