Charged with blending into the local agrarian vernacular while providing new community services, architect El Dorado put much thought into the materials and design of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s The Crays at Lone Oaks Farm.
As West Tennessee’s new center of higher education and shooting sports, the 7,040 square-foot Clays comprises the Hunter Education Classroom and Pavilion. As the first project in a multi-phased expansion, the Lone Oaks Farm is home to 200 acres of scenic pastures, large bodies of water, riparian zone restorations and protected woodlands in Middleton, Tenn.
Housing meeting rooms, classrooms, a catering kitchen and pro shop, the architects chose metal and wood to create these new handsome structures for the farm.
“Tangibly, we were focused on carefully selecting durable materials, using them selectively in places that would allow maximum length of life. The signature materials of metal and wood cladding are durable, long-lasting materials with local relevance from a material production and craft perspective,” relates David Dowell, AIA, partner, El Dorado.
“The simple form of the building was inspired by local barns and even metal buildings that dot so much of West Tennessee,” he adds.
The ribbed metal style was elected for its texture and added durability, and layered well with the cypress wood designed for the underside of the roof and Pavilion. While the metal cladding provides a hard, durable shell, the interior’s warm wood offers an organic, inviting shelter.
“Given that people come here mostly to be outside, we wanted the building to feel like it belongs on a farm campus and that porches and corridors offered shade and protection from the elements,” explains Dowell.
For both the building’s scale and details, layering was emphasized, and special attention was given to material transitions, flashing moments, color and tone.
“Layering is important due to the way people use the building, and in the way the building responds to the seasons and year-round usage,” explains Dowell. “Vernacular buildings in the area were designed and built around layers. It’s an indoor/outdoor building. The layers reflect this.”
A 2022 Metal Construction Association award winner in the commercial roof category, judge Mark Roddy, FAIA, principle, Mark Ruddy Architects, Sacramento, comments on the structures’ elegance. “It’s a beautiful take on a vernacular, and I think the simplicity and just this simple elegance of that textured metal is so beautifully contrasted with the wood liner on the inside of it.”
Impressed with the way the metal and wood work together, Judge Lee Calisti, AIA, principal, lee CALISTI architecture+design, Greensburg, Pa., notes, “What’s fascinating about it to me is that it’s almost as if the building is made of metal and when you carve into it, you see that it has an underbelly that’s another material, which happens to be the wood. There’s an authenticity to how they use the metal… It’s just a simple gable; it sits there serenely. But looking at it, it really is lovely.”
The buildings further blend into the site with the selection of a Ledbetter Bronze to match the color of the existing buildings on the farm
In addition to the meetings and classes held inside the facility, the Pavilion and outdoor areas host trap, skeet, and a clays course for area youth, 4-H campers and amateur and competitive shooters.