This studio began with a broad mission–to investigate the even-covered field in the United States through a search for the commons in the American village. We selected a rural site in the Corn Belt and studied the physical and political forces that govern the productive landscape. While profits in commodity crop production are only increasing, agricultural communities are suffering a demographic crisis in the form of an aging, male-dominated population.
In response, we have proposed a network of farming co-operatives that operate at the scale of the Jeffersonian township. These Co-ops seek to formalize an ad hoc system that is already emerging amongst young farmers. Shared machinery, labor, inputs and storage reduces barriers to entry for beginning farmers and makes land a more liquid asset by eliminating the artificial geographic constraint set by slow-moving implements.
My project began with an analysis of the Roman horrea type–an inward-facing, fortified and centralized storage facility for grain or arms. Unlike the individually-owned farm, which grows and shrinks according to land acquisition, the Co-op serves a known quantity of land with a stable set of requirements for machinery, labor and inputs. Thus, the project takes the form of a closed-loop system that defines a public interior.
The architectural proposal began with the landscape, which is experienced as utterly horizontal, yet dynamic—constantly rising and falling as crops are grown and harvested. This moving datum corresponds exactly to the unique labor cycles of farmers, who experience periods of intense activity, followed by months of relative quietude. The architecture is meant to respond to this movement, establishing its own horizon that is concealed and revealed as the fields rise and fall around it.
The crux of the project lies in the problem of dwelling. How can a human scale exist within this vast perimeter, whose scale is predetermined by the requirements of the infrastructure? My response was to create a doubling of the courtyard space. A single entrance to the building leads to a vast interior, which is the territory of machinery and logistics. Those arriving by car, however, process into the smaller square nested within the larger perimeter, or what I’m calling the commons. This commons becomes a space of transition and respite between the home and the field.