Barns in the Pioneer Valley

Last Friday I had the pleasure to be invited to a barn tour organized by two of my Architecture colleagues – Max Page and Caryn Brause. As anyone who lives in the Pioneer Valley (the Connecticut River valley) knows, one of the truly vernacular building styles around here is the tobacco barn. This trip showed some adaptive re-uses and modern interpretations of these barns.

Tobacco barns here in the valley are very interesting wooden buildings. As you can see in the left barn in the image above, they are typically quite long buildings made of a wooden frame and wooden siding. What makes these barns special is that their facade can be opened by hinging every third siding board outward. This opens the barn up for cross-ventilation, which is important for drying tobacco leaves, a traditional crop around here. The image on the right shows quite nicely how the normally closed and unlit barn becomes air- and light-filled at that point.

This feature together with the fact that the wood used in their structure is typically locally harvested, makes them great examples for a climate-responsive and local building type.

These were the barns we visited:

Barn 1: Next Barn Over

This barn is the home of a local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). As you can see in the image below, the exterior of this barn was kept quite authentic. The most important change was that the entire south-facing roof was covered with solar panels. Because of the snowy day during our visit, those can best be seen in the satellite map below.

Another feature was a portion of the barn that was turned into a climate-controlled environment, which serves as an above-ground “root-cellar” in Winter.



Barn 2: NoHo Town Farm

This barn was converted into a local farm with service spaces and living quarters. While the original structure was retained, it was raised by 30 inches and enclosed in a weather-tight and highly energy-efficient building shell.


Architects: Coldham and Hartman


Barn 3: New England Wild Flower Society – Nasami Farm Native Plant Center

While not originally a barn, this building adapts the shape and some main concepts of the traditional barn into a modern commercial building that houses offices, seed storage and several spaces for education and plant research. As in the traditional barn, wood was chosen as the main building material (with the notable exception of a few quite prominent steel beams).

I like how the architects adapted the slatted-siding motif in their shading-devices. The building also features an extended overhang on the south-side, which makes the shape asymmetrical (and non-traditional) but provides shading and creates nice sheltered outdoor spaces.



Architects: Architerra


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