Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 2/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Winfield, Illinois, lies just 45 miles west of Chicago. As recently as 20 years ago, land in this area was still being farmed. Not so today. The rural landscape is rapidly fading—except on the 1,100 acres surrounding Kline Creek Farm. An 1890s farmhouse set amid fields of corn, hay, and soybeans, the living-history preserve depicts the simplicity of agrarian life as it once was.
To prepare 21st-century urbanites to step back in time, the Chicago office of Teng & Associates built a 2,400-square-foot visitor center at the start of the footpath leading to the farmhouse. Principal design architect Thomas Hoepf encapsulated decades of typical farm buildings by employing vernacular volumes and materials: an exposed frame of galvanized steel and a roof and exterior walls clad in galvanized corrugated sheet metal. Only upon a closer inspection are more up-to-date elements revealed. "Each form, traditional and modern, is enriched by the presence of the other one," he notes. "Rather than building a false historic notion of a barn, we pushed the barn concept into the future to create a dialogue."
Inspired by Louis Kahn's distinction between "served" and "servant" functions, Hoepf devoted one building to a lobby, a gallery for hung displays, and a multipurpose space for large farm equipment and interactive exhibits. He placed storage and bathrooms next door. A single roof joins the two volumes, forming a covered corner porch that functions as a visitor drop-off site.
Contrasting with the exterior's hard shell, the interior gives a modernized twist to the honorable technique of slat-crib construction, in which horizontal slats are spaced 1/2 inch apart for ventilation. The perimeter walls of the visitor center's lobby, gallery, and multipurpose space feature natural-finish cedar slats framed by unpainted steel. Besides doubling as a display system, the cedar speaks of an era when majestic barns still dotted the land.
Left: Teng & Associates's visitor center for Kline Creek Farm, a living-history preserve in Illinois. Slat-crib walls, which model light and, with mounting clips, serve as a display system. The central roofline, raised to form a clerestory. Galvanized sheet-metal siding. The reception desk, clad in galvanized steel. A 19th-century carriage in the multipurpose space.