barn raison d’être

August 14th 2012 Comments: 2 Topics:

We’re currently working on a few projects where we’re being called upon to design barns.

While researching the architectural styles of barns, I became mildly amused by my current scholarly investigation. In rural North Alabama, where I grew up, no architect ever laid a genteel creative hand upon a barn; they were humble agricultural necessities. Standing quietly like a cow grazing in the field, these structures were the ultimate in form follows function. They simply were because they needed to be. I remember playing in the barn on hot summer days where arranging dense rectangular hay bales into fanciful forts became unintentional pre-architectural training. Rusty implements were abundant and lay ready to threaten the ever-bare foot with Lock-Jaw (whatever that was – an ignored parental warning). Old tires, abandoned doors and scurrying mice were the accessories of my early designs. In the still, hot air of these dusty lairs, imagination was king and the majestic realm was vast.

I now sit in my glamorous, conditioned and well-appointed office trying to artistically replicate that Arcadian magic of my youth. It’s suddenly clear why I’m being commissioned to design these “gentlemen barns” (as they’re now called). I’m basically designing these fashionable sheds for guys who were just like me.  We’re all grown-up now but always yearn to return to the long, simple days where a cavernous rural ramshackle held our unburdened thoughts captive.

While I’m sketching, I may slip off my shoes. Come on Lock-Jaw. You don’t scare me.

Many of these structures are also being used for very un-agricultural purposes like weekend getaways and event festivities.


  1. David Braly says:

    Surely I am not the first to praise the simple elegance of these works; after all that is the definition of a gentleman. Whatever their particular ‘modern use’ is, it is irrelevant in light of the admiration they suggest and inspire. And if these rapturous photos and truthful words (I, too, played in my grandfathers’ barns) fail to convince other readers of the beauty of these buildings, then I offer this: If ever I have the opportunity, I would rather live in one of these barns than in one of your houses.

  2. Stephen M. Brickley says:

    I am enthralled by these structures! I have a sense of melancholia witnessing them. My family owned a farm, with large, standard, gambrel-roof red barn for 154 years, and I lived on it until the fifth grade. Steve

Leave a comment