Unexpected Partners

Unexpected Partners

The Willoughby Design Barn in Weston, Missouri, designed by el dorado inc., is an interesting example of a partnership between materials that are often thought of as belonging to different realms.  FRP has often been employed architecturally to create a look that may unapologetically be called “futuristic.”  Natural wood would seem the conceptual opposite, especially if it has the rough look of recycled structural framing.  Yet in the Willoughby Design, these two opposites achieve a healthy synergy because of something the share in common.

The multi-purpose building is a functioning agricultural barn on the lower level, and an event space for a graphic designer / business identity consultant above.  It also includes a sleeping loft.

It was designed to be filled with natural light, so significant areas of the walls and roof were clad with translucent FRP panels, with the framing left exposed on the interior. (The exterior areas that are not FRP are clad in 16 ounce corrugated copper, untreated, which will patina over time.) A high proportion of recycled – salvaged – wood was used, including the barn frame from another barn being demolished nearby, and flooring from a school gymnasium.  The floor has been peeled away from the wall in many places to allow light to penetrate from the top to the bottom of the building.

Light is what the wood and FRP have in common.  The translucent FRP panels admit generous light.  The wood, too, is translucent, though only to a shallow depth, but it is enough to hold the light and create a glow that seems to dwell just below the surface.  This is the magic warmth of wood that is so often the reason for its selection as a finish material.  The FRP, bathing it in gently diffused sunshine, is the ideal complement.

Images via Archdaily.com, copyright Mike Sinclair.