Almost Classicism, The Village

Yale School of Architecture, Spring 2016

Critic: Kersten Geers

Site: Clarinda, Iowa

Almost Classicism, Architecture Without Content in it’s 19th incarnation, studies the covered field of suburbia and the open field of middle America in order to explore the possibility of a new kind of ‘commons’ in what was once ‘the village.’ Looking to Robert Venturi, Kevin Roche, Scamozzi, and Aldo Rossi as ‘ancestors,’ This search for the village commons looks to the typological and formal qualities inherent in these precedents in order to measure them against the current state of affairs in the American field. Taking a critical look at the ‘commons’ as an essential social and economic center of the American small town reveals a disconnect between our nostalgic notions of rural civic life, and our increasingly global society. Are the city halls, police stations, fire stations, and schools of the past also the commons of tomorrow, or must we revise our understanding of commons for the ever expanding field?

While the shrinking population of farm towns across the United States is resulting in the atrophy of many normative types of commons, the farm coop typology persists. With the growth of commodity farming, contemporary coops serve the needs of a productive landscape focused on fuel instead of food. Reexamining the farm coop typology, this project investigates the friction between these two types of productive landscapes, bringing them together in one coop. The coop investigates the ways in which global fuel economies and local food production can work in tandem to redefine rural landscapes of the American Midwest. This consolidation also represents a formal and functional shift in governance of the small town from that of the courthouse at the center of town to the coop at the periphery. The expanded coop typology centers around storage and market, both locally and globally. Grain silos and cold vegetable storage act as a perimeter for a large central hall that is opened up to both regional vegetable markets and global commodity trading. Grain elevators serve as a literal framework within which the commons of the coop exist. At a more basic level, this new coop acts as a visual marker in the flat landscape of Iowa. Just as the courthouse once marked the civic center of the small town, so too does the coop now mark the commons of a storage and market center scaled to the region.