A leading Midwest manufacturing company had plans to convert a small outside corner of one of their existing high bay factory areas into a two story space to house a new visitor’s center and office space. Rather than remove the existing exterior skin to complete this conversion, the architects recommended a more sustainable approach by creating a new envelope that wraps portions of the existing exterior to define and differentiate space on the interior and unify perforations and projections in the shell. Because the building was also meant to feature the history of the company, materials were chosen that would represent the rich heritage of the farming industry; weathered steel thus became the choice for this new exterior cladding. This utilitarian material provides a familiar connection to visitors and farmers while being utilized in a non-traditional format.
Furthering the connection between interior and exterior, a nearly forty foot high structural glass wall forms a giant picture window into the lobby space where the latest technology is featured. This essentially becomes the signage for the building as this life-sized billboard is viewed from the entrance drive. Upon closer approach to the building, field and crop striping is recalled in the paving and transitions to a deeply toned interior floor surface that is reminiscent of rich agricultural earth.
An inner conference room enclosure is set on axis with the picture window and helps complete the interior/exterior tie as it reverses the view back toward the machinery and the exterior. It also pays homage to the company’s agricultural legacy, again through materiality and light, as this core enclosure uses slatted wood to reproduce a barn and corn crib vernacular. Natural light filters into the conference room through this slat system. This interior element and the insertion of second floor spaces at strategic areas also provide a proper scale to the original high-bay factory space.
Sustainability continues to be a high priority at all interior space with many material choices based on both renewable and agriculturally based products. The palette of a clean, white background was used to reference an art gallery that features the tractor as a sculptural object. A large super-graphic flanks the entry and again references a gallery setting where the company’s history is showcased as a counterpoint to the new tractor placed opposite. This axis continues out through the ‘billboard’ opening to frame a view of the factory beyond where the machinery is actually being constructed.