Wood architecture transforms agri-industrial landscape into a refuge

Washington Fruit, family owned and operated since 1916, grows, packs and ships premium fruit products from the northwest throughout the world. The company’s facilities occupy 90 acres of industrial land.

The company wanted a new headquarters that would serve as a refuge from river-bed industrial land bordered by a major freeway. The project brief had to include warmer materials, no concrete, non-boxlike forms and minimal visible equipment or devices. Light and acoustics were high priorities.

An aged and abandoned wood barn was the single architectural reference given to the architects, Graham Baba Architects. Wood was the solution.

While the 18-foot-tall scissored glulams dominate the facade, locally sourced reclaimed barn wood clads 16,000 SF, flowing between interior and exterior. Naturally weathered and unsealed, this cladding does not release any unnecessary toxins into the workspace. The design team took special care in the connection details throughout the project; from holding the wood structure off the ground on small steel feet, to concealing all utilities within a raised floor system to keep the exposed structure clear of clutter. All private office desks and conference room tables were handcrafted by a local furniture maker.

The lunchroom, which includes a kitchen and table for 30, provides a gathering space for weekly meals and staff interaction.

Site planning to minimise heat gain and electric lighting was the main sustainability strategy. With back-of-house programme kept to the west edge to block low west sun, the resulting “L” plan orients views to the north.

Yakima averages 290 sunny days/year so the tall window wall almost eliminates the need for electric lighting. There is a southfacing clerestory to balance daylight and Photocells for darker days. Deciduous trees are planted at south windows of the lunchroom and executive offices.

Together, the salvaged and sustainably-fabricated wood finishes and structure provide the desired material warmth while allowing for an impressive column-free interior. The deep agricultural roots in both company and location give meaning to the pure design concept with attention to detail throughout the project.

Washington Fruit & Produce Company was shortlisted for the WAN Wood in Architecture Awards 2016.

Text: WAN Awards

Images: Graham Baba Architects