Imagine waking up in a house, looking out the window, and discovering you are literally hanging over a hillside. No, neither a natural disaster nor massive landslide has removed the earth beneath your feet but rather a group of modern architects with a sense of adventure – and a sense humour – in designing a building that stretches the limits of structural engineering and one’s imagination.

House balanced on one edge
Earlier this month, during a trip to the U.K., I had the opportunity to visit the “Balancing Barn,” a shiny, stainless steel-clad modern holiday home that is suspended over a nature reserve in Suffolk. This contemporary house, which looks a little like a train going over a cliff, is 30 metres long with 50 per cent of the building cantilevered over the edge of a hillside. Designed by the Dutch firm MVRDV, the Balancing Barn takes its shape and inspiration from local barns as well as the “hanging houses” in Amsterdam, and is meant to create a playful, memorable holiday experience.

This over-the-top, or more accurately over-the-edge, house provides both proof and inspiration that even architecture can create suspense.

House in a field

The ‘barn’ is one of five holiday homes, designed by some of Europe’s leading architects and commissioned by Alain de Botton, author of The Architecture of Happiness, for a project called Living Architecture. In an effort to enhance people’s appreciation of modern architecture, while offering a 21st century vacation experience, Living Architecture offers short-term rentals of uniquely designed houses in stunning locations.

The buildings are deliberately experimental and, says de Botton, are intended not only to give people an opportunity to “live in” and truly experience modern architecture, but also to stimulate discussion about what does – or does not – make a great building.

The Balancing Barn is available for rent as of the end of this month. If you’re interested in booking or learning more about this and other Living Architecture houses, visit

They say the space we’re in changes everything. Hanging out in the Balancing Barn, I’d have to agree.

What buildings or places have challenged your beliefs in what’s possible?

Author's Bio: 

I’m a girl from the Canadian prairies who likes wide-open spaces, fresh ideas, a great story, and inspiring environments, buildings and art of all kinds. I have written feature stories about architecture, urban, rural and lakeside living, cool neighbourhoods, and everything from business to pleasure (tourism and travel).

I believe that powerful writing, too, can link the artistic with the practical.

My feature writing has appeared in: Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press, The Western Producer, The Cottager, Manitoba Business Magazine, Manitoba’s Northern Experience, Home & City, Manitoba Gardener, Ciao and up! (WestJet’s magazine).