Utilitarian Design: The Redefined Barn
Driving in the rural countryside it is easy to take for granted the utilitarian design of farm buildings in which we have become accustomed, being native to Ohio. I noticed each barn I pass is in some way different, some subtle, others dramatic.
Most barns are usually organized as part of a collection of buildings (barn, farm house, silos, milk house, etc.) all situated around a common arrival space. What I find interesting is that this barn typology can take on a variety of forms depending on the site influences and type of farm it serves. Some barns have tall Gambrel volumes for storage while others that house livestock are very linear. The variety of adaptive pieces bring an honest aesthetic that defines this typology.
While studying many barns, my interest is kept by recognizing the distinctive modifications farmers made to the basic form. It is as if each barn has a distinct personality. This “Creative Utilitarianism” is the inspiration for one of our current projects - The Bob Evans Corporate Campus.
We wanted to find an aesthetic that references historic barns while including a dialogue addressing the modern corporation. The size of the main building is 135,000 square feet, much larger than a traditional barn. So the question was, “How do we design a large corporate building and make it look like a barn?” Our first step was finding some recent inspirational images of contemporary barns that used modern materials and textures and applied them to the traditional form. Many images included metal siding and roofs, exposed steel, and transparent glass walls. Some examples even played with light patterns which accented the repetition of the natural wood siding. Our design team was drawn to unique simple expressions which set the tone for the utilitarian design.
The Bob Evans Corporation has always been synonymous with farm, and the idea of living healthy while respecting nature through farming. This idea is directly reflected in the attitude taken towards the site development of the new campus, including green building practices. The landscape design is intended to mimic the natural pastures and gardens found on a farm. Gardens, patios and walking paths that connect the pastures invite employees to enjoy nature daily, which promotes healthy activity that translates into higher productivity. Some green building practices fall easily into place. One example is that a limited amount of food will be grown in the gardens that will be used in the test kitchens.
The overall building solution is a family of structures each contributing to the composition with responsive variations of form that address the program requirements. The organizing element is a simple orchard of apple trees. Borrowing the simple barn form, the main building is coupled with modern glass volumes to create a contrast that symbolizes the history and future of the company. The distinctive modern forms contain offices that have a candid association with nature. The out buildings keep more with the idea of the traditional barn typology. They include a variety of “lean to” volumes and other iconic elements found on a farm like silos, a windmill and cupolas. The main building vernacular is a heavy stone base on the first floor with mostly glass on the second floor. Metal siding and roofing are common on all the structures. The unique element is the utilization of shading fins on a majority of windows to cut down on solar gain during the day. These fins become a functional design element that help create our distinct agrarian aesthetic.
“The redefined barn” concept is a perfect match to our client's vision for their new corporate campus. The design integrates the traditional barn aesthetic and fuses it with modern elements to create a new dialogue that makes a bold yet practical statement about today's corporate workplace. “Creative Utilitarianism” as I call it, is the essence of the redefined barn; finding new ways to reorganize typical elements to move the spirit and create a unique sense of place.
To find more images of our design for the new Bob Evans Corporate Campus in New Albany, Ohio click here.
Bob Evans Corporate Campus - Entry at Night
Bob Evans Corporate Campus - Marketplace
by Dan Pease
Director - Design
Dan offers over 30 years of design and project management experience with a B.S. from The Ohio State University and a Master's of Architecture from University of Michigan. When he's not in the office, Dan loves traveling to the Cayman Islands and eating Chipotle.