Raspberry FieldsEdit profile
This project is a full renovation and restoration of an existing, one-room schoolhouse built in northern Utah in the early 1900’s. Used as a school into the 1920’s, the structure was then used sporadically to store grain through the 1950’s, after which time it was abandoned for any formal use. Despite this decades-long lack of utility, the building has stood as a reminder to the local ranching community of their origins in this difficult, remote part of the country.Over the years, through seasons of hard winters and hot summers, the structure has remained straight, unbroken, and – true to its original design – absolutely bilaterally symmetrical. Or so it would seem.
The long axis of the building is oriented at approximately 30° off of the east-west direction such that its southwest façade faces directly into prevailing winter storms as well as the southerly solar exposure. For this reason, the southwest side of the building has weathered significantly, having seen over a century of freeze-thaw dynamics. The northeast side, however, has remained nearly perfectly preserved. The effects of weathering (or lack thereof) are captured in the shape, texture, and color of the original wood cladding and shingles. On the northeast side all is in order, while on the southwest side the wood planks have curled with such force as to pry the nails from the studs and the shingles have long since blown away. Similarly, the protected side remains a deep, even brown, while the weathered side has become wildly striped with all manner of browns, blacks, greys, and even moments of bright greens and oranges where lichen have found purchase in the tortured surface. All of this is to say that this structure, while formally an exercise in perfect symmetry is phenomenally something quite different. In terms of both material dynamics and affective disposition the two faces could not be more different.
The design for the renovation and restoration of this building stems from this synthesis of solid formal symmetry and radical affective bipolarity. The work seeks to reinforce and amplify this pre-existing dichotomy from both directions. The design of the interior becomes a nuanced play of symmetry-making and breaking, with certain elements aligning along the strong central axis or aligning against the two flanking edges, while others move off-axis in the age-old compositional play that pits idiosyncrasy against balance. In contrast to the formal-geometrical project of the interior, the design of the exterior addresses the affective material qualities of wood subjected to various degrees of weathering. The entire building is re-clad in wood shingles that, in the beginning, are all the same: 4” by 24” (with 12” exposed face) by ½” thick cedar stained a deep, almost black purple. On the day construction is complete, the building’s massing and cladding will appear to be relatively flat, monolithic, self-similar, and more optically absorptive than reflective. Over time, however, the object’s material and contextual bipolarity will be revealed, not only through the expression of natural weathering on the two different sides, but through an accelerated process brought about by unusual detailing. The long, slender shingles are attached intentionally improperly, with the bottom ends unfixed and the grain oriented more horizontally than vertically. This encourages premature curling of the kind already seen in the existing southwestern façade, only much worse due to the “impropriety” of the shingles. Adding to the drama, the undersides of the shingles on this side are stained much more brightly than the dark topsides, ranging in color from orange to purple to match the four colors of raspberry species indigenous to the site. Thus, when the shingles begin to curl their undersides reveal a flamboyance that is in marked contrast to the darkened reserve of the initial skin. Over many years it is hoped that the shingles on the exposed side take on the character of fur, growing slightly fuller with each season. Meanwhile, the northeast side – the only façade subjected to local scrutiny due to the orientation of the building on the site – will remain reasonably straight and composed.
Description from the architects