The renewing power of nature
Wine improves if you leave it alone for a while. Cheese too. But a building? Not likely. The Frankenhof Mill in the southern tip of the Netherlands had been unused for decades when the restoration to it began. But it soon turned out that the neglect also offered opportunities. Today, as a guest in one of the two large holiday flats, you can experience a symbiosis of historical charm and modern comfort, achieved with the traditional building material clay earth and with a great deal of intuition and know-how for its application.
Water and wool were the basis for economic success
The Frankenhof Mill in Vaals, the Netherlands, was built in 1736 and became part of a weaving mill and textile factory in the years of early industrialisation. The concept of having specialised “industrial buildings” did not yet exist and so the building design was modelled after the country houses of the day.
For almost 200 years, the mill successfully produced different types of cloth. Napoleon’s army is said to have been equipped with felt from the Frankenhof Mill. In early 1900, textile production came to an end. Part of the building became a residential house, the rest fell into disrepair. In the second half of the 20th century, that chapter also ended and the mill was left to its own devices.
Traditional building materials build a bridge across time
In 2007 the building was on the verge of collapse and the rescue of the Frankenhof Mill, now on the list of national historical places, began. Together with the architect Emmanuel Laugs, the Limburg Land Trust created two large holiday flats out of the old mill.
For the holiday home “Huys”, 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, as well as a large cooking and living area, were created in the right-wing of the building, which was still standing. Despite its new use, you can feel the history of the rooms everywhere: when you walk over the old stone tiles, light a fire in the stately fireplace or use the elaborately restored staircase.
Of the left-wing, only the foundation walls remained. It was rebuilt according to the records of how the building looked in 1877. In the “Weverij” holiday flat, 7 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms on the upper floor and an open-plan living-dining area on the ground floor invite you to spend time with family or friends.
In both the old and new wings, walls and ceilings were covered with drywall clay panels and plastered with earthen clay. The result is a traditional wall surface with modern characteristics. The clay earth regulates the indoor climate by buffering excessive humidity. Thanks to modern building technology with integrated wall and ceiling heating, it radiates a pleasant warmth.
Rare plants and animals are new neighbours
The revitalising power of nature is not only visible and tangible in the building. Old pear trees line the driveway. To the left and right are meadows between two small streams. One of them – the Zieversbeek – feeds the mill ponds via a sluice.
Unlike the building, the landscape has survived the period of neglect well. It has returned to its original state and has become home to rare animals and plants.Read more »
CLAYTEC earthen building materials for reconstruction and renovation
The conversion, renovation and reconstruction of the Frankenhof Mill made very different demands on architecture, planning and building materials. But the goal was always the same: To help the historical building regain its former glory and a new future.
The architect and clay expert Emmanuel Laugs used earthen-clay building materials from CLAYTEC for the entire building project. Clay drywall panels used as wall and ceiling cladding even-out unevenness in old buildings. They are fixed with a clay adhesive. A three-layer structure of reinforcement mortar with mesh, clay under- and topcoat plaster ensures a durable, high-quality wall surface.
In-surface radiant heating systems were installed in both flats – in the walls, the heating loops were embedded in the earthen clay plaster. Prefabricated panels were used on the ceilings. Heating is provided by geothermal energy in combination with a heat pump.
The thermal storage capacity of earthen clay is ideal for this type of heating with low water temperatures. The building material stores the heat and releases it evenly into the room. It is not the air that is heated, but the solid components of the room via radiant heat. Here, too, nature is the source of renewal and comfort.