Moxon Architects has designed a new farm shop to sit alongside the original buildings at Durslade Farm, the Somerset outpost of the international art gallery Hauser & Wirth. Graham Bizley takes a look.


In the history of architecture, the humble farm shop has not so far played much of a role. Farms selling produce direct to the public have usually made do with a simple shack, but since the 1970s there has been a trend for large estates to set up purpose designed shops, often in a spare outbuilding. The first of these is thought to have been Chatsworth House, and today every self-respecting big house has one. A growth in interest in the provenance of the food we eat, spurred on by food scares like foot and mouth and BSE, has pushed the number of farm shops in the UK from 1,500 in the early 2000s to around 10,000 today.

Durslade Farm, on the outskirts of Bruton in Somerset, was in a state of decay having become economically unviable before it was bought by international art gallery Hauser & Wirth. Widely described as some of the most powerful figures in the art world, Manuela and Iwan Wirth moved to Somerset in 2007 and purchased the farm two years later. Now revitalised as a hugely successful arts centre and gallery (AT July/ August 2014), the 40-hectare site is still a working farm, breeding cattle, sheep and pigs that end up on the table at the gallery’s Roth Bar & Grill.


A new addition to the complex is Moxon Architects’ purpose-built shop for selling produce from the farm as well as from the Wirths’ much larger estate nearby and from other local producers. Integrating a commercial art gallery with a working farm, reflecting the character of its location and reaching out to the surrounding community were fundamental to the gallery’s vision from the start, and the wide-ranging interests of the owners have driven the way it has developed. At the gallery opening in 2014, Ivan Wirth was proudly carving slices of ham raised on his estate and dry-aged in a purpose-made salt room located like an art installation next to the gallery bar.

The original farm buildings, some of which are Grade II listed, are arranged around a courtyard that you enter from the car park before finding the gallery entrance.


A flat-roofed form links the pitched roof shop to the adjacent restaurant.

The single-storey farm shop has been placed outside the courtyard facing the car park, its long flank wall taking over the role of a front elevation to arriving visitors. Its position allows it to be open when the gallery is closed, a valuable outlet for the estate and other local producers during lockdown. Its prominence could lead its entrance to be confused with that of the gallery, but the long elevation is blank and the shop entrance is a modest line of glass doors on the gable end. When the gate to the courtyard is open, the scale of the taller buildings beyond makes it apparent the main event lies further in.


The main volume has been left open and pared back. The steel frame, polished concrete floor and custom-made rustic-style shelving give the interior a discernible air of refinement.

On the outside, the shop building is modest and subdued, a simple tiled pitched roof over Siberian larch-clad walls, distinct from the local stone rubble walls of the original farm buildings. In section the building has a main pitched roof volume occupied by the shop, and a narrower flat-roofed form on one side that links it to the adjacent restaurant and houses a butchery, cold store and office. The shop is lit by skylights and glazing in the triangles of the gable ends, shaded by larch louvres to reduce glare from the sun. The entrance end is fully glazed, offering a view out across farmland – a reminder of where the produce on sale comes from.


The entrance is a modest line of glazed doors on the gable end. Larch louvres offer protection from glare from low morning and evening sun.

Behind the cladding, the walls and roof are made from SIP panels on a blockwork plinth, supported by a primary steel frame. The architects describe this as a vernacular approach which uses the most effective and efficient construction technology for the job. The steel frame is the most striking element. Each of the portal frames is made up of a pair of steel channels, held apart sufficiently by spacers to allow the channels to clamp over a box-section stub protruding from the floor. There are no stiffening plates, so the flanges run in continuous lines from floor to ridge and the welds are left visible. It looks like Corten but is ordinary carbon steel with a wax surface treatment to prevent further corrosion. The structural grid would have worked at wider centres but the architects preferred the rhythm of a closer spacing of the portals. There is nothing monumental about the steelwork. Its scale has been carefully judged and sensitively detailed to maintain a human scale and it has sufficient presence not to be engulfed by the retail paraphernalia.


The shop’s Siberian larch-clad walls contrast with the local stone rubble walls of the original farm buildings.

The fit-out, not by Moxon, is the typical farm-shop look of produce in crates, on palettes and on found objects like barrels and work benches, an approach that hasn’t changed much since the 1970s. What is discernible is a refinement of the elements – the steel frame, the polished concrete floor that would have a rougher floated finish in a real farm shed, the custom made rustic-style shelving. On one level, the estate farm-shop model uses an idealised vision of rural life to sell high-end goods to people with the disposable income to indulge their aspirations for a country lifestyle. More importantly, it expands the market for farmers striving to produce the best quality food using high welfare standards and ethical production techniques.

In the past 18 months, two other high-end farm shops have opened within 10 miles of Durslade, one at The Newt, a hotel estate and garden (AT February 2020), and one next to the A303 to catch the passing holiday traffic. It seems incredible that the area can support them all, but two of these have a captive audience, and all have benefited from local people treating themselves during lockdown instead of eating out. The increasing numbers of people moving to rural areas from cities have brought their urban food expectations with them so I expect it is a trend that is set to continue. I’m off to stock up for the weekend.

Graham Bizley is a director of Prewett Bizley Architects

Additional images

Download drawings


Moxon Architects
Hauser & Wirth/Artfarm
Concept design input
Luis Laplace
Structural engineer
Andrew Waring Associates
M&E consultant
QS and project manager
Dadson and Butler
CDM coordinator
Approved building inspector
Spire Building Control Services
Main contractor
Ken Biggs Contractors
Ground works contractor

Tanking/water proofing contractor
Cannon Clarke
Steel Fabrications
Structuralinsulated panels
Kingspan designed and installed by Timber Innovations
Single-ply roof
Hodge Single Ply
Timber doors and windows
Monk Woodworking
Gable Windows
Velfac installed by Westcott Construction
Rooflights to gable roof
Rooflight Company
Flat roof rooflights
Timber cladding
Bristol South Decorations