Location: Hood River, Oregon, USA
Completion Date: April 1, 2014
Square Footage: 820 sf
Architect/Firm: FIELDWORK Design & Architecture
Project Team: Cornell Anderson, Partner/Architect; Tim Fouch, Partner/Architect; Tonia Hein, Partner/Interior Designer; Joshua Mollenkamp, Intern; James Austin, Intern
Photographs: Brian Walker Lee
Located within the apple and pear orchards of the Hood River Valley, the project consists of an 820 square foot structure used to house tractors and farm equipment with an associated parking area ringed by landscaped walls and pathways. It is oriented North-South, in harmony with the site’s aggressive slope and the traffic patterns of the working farm.
The architectural language is straightforward, grounded firmly in northwest rural vernacular. Farm buildings of the Pacific Northwest have a rich history at once proud and familiar. They are common sights in rural Oregon, often clearly hand-built by landowners from material nearby, and crafted with the tools available with an austere efficiency. Details are not ornamental, but are in service to performance- honest expressions of function and protection.
This project employs that value system as a basis from which to progress. The building’s sheet metal exterior skin wraps seamlessly from roof to wall to minimize potential weather intrusions, expansive openings are collected (on module with standardized siding panels) at the middle of the building to maximize light, utility, cross ventilation and economy of space. The wide span of the hand-build slatted cedar sliding doors is governed by the buildings primary function, circulation of the farm’s workhorse tractor. These doors are detailed to invite natural light deep into the building while employing an obscured polycarbonate panel protecting from wind and weather.
Often in modern utilitarian agricultural buildings, consideration of aesthetics and user experience is lacking; generally they are prefabricated and without personality. This was not always true. The landscape of the Pacific Northwest is dotted with magnificent barns. Though often in functional decline, they resonate powerfully within the landscape, and often built by the owners themselves.
The architecture of the Elk Valley Tractor Shed recalls this tradition, expressing pleasure in attention to craft and detail at the human scale, valuing beauty and placing the user experience first. The slatted cedar sliding doors are hand built, the steel door handles hand forged.
Meticulous craftsmanship invites interaction with both the building itself and the environment in which it resides. Two large sliding doors are mirrored on each side of the shed, spanning ten feet each, allowing the building to function seamlessly within the agricultural workflow and to frame and embrace mountain views. Polycarbonate panels back the slatted doors and multiple skylights, so that even when doors are closed, the barn is filled with diffuse daylight.