Bartels with part of her project. 
SPOKANE – Born and raised in the Puyallup area, Valerie Bartels visited its megafair every year and participated in 4-H. Over the years, however, the master of architecture student at WSU Spokane noticed that commercial exhibits had become a more dominant feature.
In an effort to weave more hands-on agricultural experiences back into the environment, Bartels developed a master plan of the Puyallup fairgrounds – a 160-acre site located in the downtown core – for her final project.
“Valerie’s project is bold, original and tackles complex issues such as loss of farmland and the role of agriculture in an increasingly suburbanized part of the state,” said Matt Cohen, associate professor of architecture at WSU Spokane.
“I’ve had the experience of connecting with agriculture and knowing where my food comes from,” said Bartels. “I know many people have never had that experience based on the way we’ve constructed our built environment. I am hopeful that my design will help inspire bringing that experience back so people can reconnect with agriculture.”
“Mounds” showcase ag cycle
The proposed plan creates the entire agricultural cycle on site, including animal grazing, crop production, harvesting, storage and composting. At the same time, it maintains the amusement and commercial functions necessary for the fairground’s profitability.
Bartels utilizes some of the existing structures on the grounds, but also creates “mounds” or buildings that lift up the landscape and place program facilities beneath. This allows use of both top and bottom areas for agriculture and commercial programming, providing a two-level experience and nearly doubling square footage.
The space below the mounds accommodates a variety of uses throughout the year, such as interactive animal and plant experiences, community functions, parking space and storage.
Sustainability and more
Sustainability is a key component of the design. The mounds are created from pervious surfaces – Geofoam, a lightweight cellular concrete, and wire mesh cubes filled with recyclables – that allow for natural water flow. This makes it possible to rely on natural irrigation and saves on the cost of hauling in soil.
Facilities were designed with the animals’ comfort in mind via ventilation, natural light, natural flooring and views in and out. Barriers between animals and the public are removed, allowing for more interaction – a “please touch” environment, rather than “don’t touch.”
Model for urban areas
Bartels is eager to see her proposed changes come to fruition.
“My hope is that the experiences of agriculture and sustainability introduced in my master plan will inspire not only the city of Puyallup, but more communities throughout the state, to find ways of adding the agricultural experience to their urban environments,” she said.