PULLMAN, Wash. — Most people know that the Palouse region is home to agriculture. However, few people, including Washington State University students, take the time to discover the true nature of the Palouse and what its agricultural way of life is all about.
This was just the challenge given to WSU faculty members Paul Hirzel and Greg Kessler’s third-year architecture students. What can architects learn from farmers? How can the rural location of WSU be a benefit to good design? The results of their research and their design projects will be on display Feb. 5-23 at the Compton Union Gallery on the WSU campus. An opening reception at the gallery is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6.
As part of the project, the students immersed themselves in farm culture. They studied farm equipment, interviewed farmers and toured farms, uncovered the history of the farmstead, and collected examples of art and literature influenced by the farm. They even decorated their design studio with hay bales, wheat stalks, posters, farm equipment and a toy tractor.
“In addition to simply learning about the functional aspects of farms, the students also gained an understanding for the aesthetic implications of farm life,” said Hirzel, an associate professor of architecture.
After studying farming, the students were asked to create a new vision of the farm — one that would challenge the shallow stereotypes of the traditional American icon. Each student was given a 640 acre (one square mile) plot of land on which to create a farm that would become a regional attraction — something so ingenious and curious that people would travel hundreds of miles to see it. Each farm takes one aspect of rural life and uses that feature to create a new definition of “the farm.”
“The students’ solutions to this problem were as rich and varied as farm life itself. Though each project is unique, all reflect a rethinking of what the farm is now and can be in the future,” said Hirzel.
The student exhibit is supported in part by the WSU Parents’ Program.