Date of this Version
Along the lonely stretch of Highway 69 just west of the York and Seward county line close to Gresham, Nebraska, lies a site which has become of keen interest in my search. Two decrepit barns, placed irregularly on the site, have fallen victim to neglect. Most likely the owner of the land has erected newer steel structures to hold his equipment and is letting time be the only factor in the process of deconstruction to these barns.
Constructed entirely of lumber and fasteners, and constructed by the handiwork of the landowner, these barns are some of the few remaining salvageable pieces of rural architecture remaining.
Barns such as these are becoming a rarity in Nebraska and the Midwest landscape. If nothing is done to protect these structures in the upcoming century, they will be forever scarce.
By injecting a new program into this once well used space, the structures can maintain their historic beauty while prompting a new condition of use. By renovating these agricultural-related barns into structures which are used more efficiently, usefulness will be restored and therefore historical significance will be augmented. When historical significance is given and upheld, these structures will be cared for and protected, life expectancy will rise, and the overall value of the buildings, both monetary and intrinsic, will increase.
By not letting these particular barns fall, we will help provide and maintain a sense of human scale in the vast rolling landscape of the Great Plains. In addition, the retention of these structures will help conserve and protect the environment by recycling irreplaceable resources used in the barns’ initial construction. Although it may be more expensive to perform a renovation of an existing dilapidated rural structure than to simply build a new one in its place, there is seldom the same harmony between new houses and their surroundings and owner. Therefore, the logical idea is to renovate these structures and save them from extinction while simultaneously keeping the tradition of rural architecture alive and well.
I am prepared for the challenges which will inevitably accompany this project. One, I can already suppose, being the idea of changing the grand old barns into structures which will now have to conform to current building standards and contain modern day amenities and fixtures. I intend to contact the owner of the farmland and request his permission to view the structures at a more intimate distance to aid my proposal. Ultimately, I hope to create a solution which brings to the table a new modern-day, contemporary use for these once
well-used rural structures.
Through integrating sustainable practice and materials in historic barns and numerous other existing structures, we are not only making the structures more environmentally friendly, we are also saving what was previously built; therefore adding significance to the structure in the form of creative re-use. Due to the drastic changes the economy has endured as well as the evermore susceptible condition of our environment, the architecture profession at large must adapt to the current times and design sustainably and cautiously.
By creating new structures with no retention of the existing, we are not re-using what is currently available and therefore we are demanding great amounts from of the environment. As designers, we must make it our responsibility to be stewards of the environment by specifying materials which are readily available and rapidly renewable, reusing materials and structures which are no longer being utilized to their full potential and always designing with sustainable environmental aspects in mind. It is this responsibility which I hope to inject into my thesis project, Agri-Remnant. By attempting to rescue these decrepit structures before they fail completely, history will be retained and appreciation for rural adaptive re-use projects could be improved. As of today, it seems as if there is an endless supply of aged rural structures dotting the countryside; but indeed these structures have a life-span. If nothing is done to protect and improve these structures today, they will not exist tomorrow.