the agritect

@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

Archive for November, 2011

Mason Lane Farm, Kentucy

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

This farm, designed by de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop is a great example of modern design, and rural culture coming together. The farm is located in Goshan, Kentucky.  The 2000-acre farm is used for agriculture, conservation, and recreation. The design is LEED Gold certified and has won many green design awards.

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

Two barns create a sheltered courtyard or farmyard (an important part of farm site design). The site is designed to capture water run-off in an organized fashion and direct it to collection and infiltration pools.  This reduces maintenance on gravel or asphalt laneways and farmyards and gutter cleanouts. The architects also mapped the equipment paths, wind patterns, and vegetation to assist with spacing the barns and orientation.

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

Two barns create a sheltered courtyard or farmyard (an important part of farm site design). Both barns use natural, recycled, local, and low VOC (volatile organic compound that have hazardous off-gassing) materials.  They use the characteristics of the materials to emphasize the architectural design of the barns; i.e. dimensions of steel cladding seams correspond to column supports and window placement, making construction simple, reduces waste, and cuts costs.

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

The open, but covered hay and equipment storage shed is built from locally sourced bamboo that is  tied together is a lattice pattern, reminiscent of the straw being stored inside.  The open lattice allows natural ventilation to keep the straw and hay dry.

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

The workshop shed is clad in typical industrial corrugated steel cladding.  A-typical is the colour chosen; brown, a colour that matches nature and mimics the traditional wood barns. This barn uses the actual building materials as the ‘finished’ materials rather than covering them and purchasing additional finish materials. This enclosed shed houses the workshop and the farm managers house. This shed uses natural ventilation, passive heating, and natural daylighting to reduce electricity costs.

photos property of de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

This farmyard and pair of barns are a great example of traditional methods working to accommodate new technologies and providing energy and cost saving benefits. They are beautifully designed and detailed, and stand beautifully in the landscape. This is a view from the agritect, what do you think?

Rural Sprawl

A bit of irony…honorable mention for the Emerging Terrain banner competition.

Capturing 'Farmer Thinking'

At a recent conference for Sustainable Food Systems in West Lorne 2025″(see post) I was introduced to the work of Dan Needles, a playwright who has self proclaimed the title of keeper of 'farmer thinking'. Dan describes farmer thinking as three things; absolutely practical, humble in the face if great calamity, and too rare in today’s society.

During the day Dan read excerpts from his plays and they were perfect renditions if rural culture. In one scene he recounts a local mechanic therapist stating that the death of rural culture was the round bale! He believed that prior to the round bale farm kids had lots of work to do over the summer, they would never be bored and they would be so excited to go back to school in the fall that they wouldn't forget to study. He also believed that the farmer would be so anxious to retire that it wouldn't be a problem for the son to take over without the father supervising. After the round bale came along the farmer could just get an air-conditioned tractor and pretend he was young until he was 75!

Dan Needles reminds us why we love the rural culture. It is why I am interested in what I do. It is why we long for a rural lifestyle that no longer exists. In every piece of architecture I try to capture rural culture. Not by replicating the traditional bank barns of the past, and also not with the cold steel machines of the present. But by looking at a particular farm, it’s surroundings, the farmers personality, and combining the best of all practices to suit each particular farm.

Have you seen any architecture that is a representation of contemporary ‘farmer thinking’?

Visit the case study blogs to find some examples of modern farm architecture, that is a balance between modern and traditional.

Capturing ‘Farmer Thinking’

At a recent conference for Sustainable Food Systems in West Lorne 2025″(see post) I was introduced to the work of Dan Needles, a playwright who has self proclaimed the title of keeper of 'farmer thinking'. Dan describes farmer thinking as three things; absolutely practical, humble in the face if great calamity, and too rare in today’s society.

During the day Dan read excerpts from his plays and they were perfect renditions if rural culture. In one scene he recounts a local mechanic therapist stating that the death of rural culture was the round bale! He believed that prior to the round bale farm kids had lots of work to do over the summer, they would never be bored and they would be so excited to go back to school in the fall that they wouldn't forget to study. He also believed that the farmer would be so anxious to retire that it wouldn't be a problem for the son to take over without the father supervising. After the round bale came along the farmer could just get an air-conditioned tractor and pretend he was young until he was 75!

Dan Needles reminds us why we love the rural culture. It is why I am interested in what I do. It is why we long for a rural lifestyle that no longer exists. In every piece of architecture I try to capture rural culture. Not by replicating the traditional bank barns of the past, and also not with the cold steel machines of the present. But by looking at a particular farm, it’s surroundings, the farmers personality, and combining the best of all practices to suit each particular farm.

Have you seen any architecture that is a representation of contemporary ‘farmer thinking’?

Visit the case study blogs to find some examples of modern farm architecture, that is a balance between modern and traditional.

About the Agritect

They say you can take the girl away from the farm, but you can't take the farm away from the girl.  I left the family farm in 2002 to pursue a career in architecture and came full circle in 2008 when I started my master's thesis on architecture and agriculture: agritecture.

A few definitions (taken from Google definition):

ag·ri·cul·ture/ˈagriˌkəlCHər/

 
Noun:
The science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Middlesex County.  As a child I was fully immersed in the family farm. I very quickly realized that farmers are more than just farmers, they are contemporary Renaissance Men, understanding business, accounting, management, science, biology, ecology, mechanics, electronics, buildings to name only a few.  But farming is not only a science, its a lifestyle choice.  Its hard work! But is also the fresh air, the morning dew, the view over the land you work, seeing the first sprouts break through the crust of the field. Farmers are the caretakers of the land and the architects of the rural landscape.

ar·chi·tec·ture/ˈärkiˌtekCHər/

 
Noun:
  1. The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.
  2. The style of a building with regard to a specific period, place, or culture.

The transition into architecture was not difficult (except for the city life). The architect is not unlike the farmer, they too are a Renaissance men (or woman in this case), skilled in many disciplines and big picture thinking. Using creative problem solving skills, the architect can think about a design in many different ways (including ones you might not think of) in order to find the best solution. Architects are trained  to manage many disciplines and many streams of ideas, problems, complex systems, and information. My education trained me in structure, ventilation, lighting, electricity, costing, etc. Not only are they trained in technical systems, but they also integrate culture, beauty, site and user specific needs into their thinking about buildings and design. All this information is then combined into one simple solution that assists the users of the building in terms of budget, energy costs, ease of use, and pleasantness of experience.  That is a good architect.

ag·ri·tec·ture/ˈagriˌtekCHər/

Noun:
  1. The art or practice of designing and constructing farming buildings with regard to the specific place, culture, and science of farming.

When I began the undertaking of my thesis on agriculture and architecture, I had an advantage; I knew the story from both sides.  I understood that a barn, house, or farm design, needed to be absolutely practical, it had to make economic sense, but I also knew how to make it energy efficient, personal, and as moving as the traditional bank barns. After the completion of my thesis I knew that working in the rural and agriculture sector is what I wanted to do. I am the agritect.

I am currently practicing architecture as an intern architect in the Waterloo Region and will soon become a fully licensed architect.

This blog is a resource, portfolio, and exploration of the sustainable relationship of agriculture and architecture. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in working with me.