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Agribusiness

As individual projects for ARCH 371 coalesce, it’s easy to become excited about all these new minds in the mix—rolodexes with vastly different sets of cards than my own. On Wednesday during class and Thursday more casually, I had three conversations that will add considerably to the diversity of projects represented in Agincourt and Fennimore county and that will expand the exhibit proposed for October 2015. Indeed, they give me additional ammunition to negotiate a venue for the exhibit.

barn-and-silo

Among the areas that would have been (and probably continue to be) important aspects of the local economy and cultural life are agribusiness and sport. I feel a stronger connection for the former, sport not having been a part of my youth, nor a current interest (insofar as team sports are concerned); I’m simply not a fan. Agriculture, however, offers a wide variety of building types and construction technologies that intrigue me, from the production of crops to their processing and/or transport: barns, and other farm outbuildings; storage and processing facilities; even factories are very likely a part of the mix and significant employers in the local economy. Lest you think a simple silo was without sophistication, however, I offer some images that suggest otherwise.

Experimentation in tile and concrete construction methodologies following the Civil War continued into the early years of the 20th century. From the standpoint of architectural history, even Frank Lloyd Wright’s “textile block” construction system has to be seen in this context. Were you aware that Wright’s “innovative” concrete blocks had been anticipated by at least three previous systems, and that when he attempted to patent textile blocks his application failed, probably for that reason; the paper trail doesn’t exist, so we’re left to speculate—which indeed I did several years ago in a paper presented at an SAH conference, which was well received but remains unpublished.

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Also among the predecessors for Wright’s idea was a patent for silo construction by the Johnson-Record Co. of Minneapolis. Their steel-reinforced silos were at least a decade older than Wright’s earliest textile block house of the 1920s. Then there is the direct influence on the rural landscape wrought by state agricultural colleges and their extension services, particularly in the first third of the 20th century. This drawing (below) from North Carolina was paralleled in most states with land grant colleges such as Iowa State and NDSU (formerly NDAC). So anyone choosing this as a topic of investigation has a rich matrix of precedent to explore.

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