Our Barn: The Place of Horses

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Human language and memory are tied to a sense of place.As an architect, I'm drawn to understand the magic of place, and to share it with others.In this article, let’s explore three lessons learned from the barn, the "place of horses."

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It is early in the morning.The fields are wet with dew or frosted over.The horses are in their stalls, and they nicker as you roll wide the big barn door.Yellow sunlight spills into the aisle, and you breathe deeply.Today will be a good day.

What is it about the barn, beyond the horses themselves, that inspires feelings of peace and well-being?I believe that the barn inherently evokes strong emotions and activates our deepest understanding of a “sense of place.”

1.A barn is a shelter that opens and closes.The concept of shelter is a primal feeling of a roof overhead and protecting walls.Your horse feels sheltered in his stall.But the barn is different and magical because it is a shelter that opens wide when the weather is warm, and locks down when the winds blow. We can learn a lot from the power of this idea.

Build your own barn with many large operable doors and windows to create a shelter that transforms with the time of day and the seasons.

2.A barn has rhythm and order.The space inside a barn is organized with a series of repeating elements:stall fronts and columns, buckets and blankets, all along an extended, straight aisle.Add the dramatic contrast of sunlight and shadow, and being in a barn feels a lot like standing among the rows of trees in an orchard.

Design your barn to reinforce a strong visual rhythm, as this is calming to the mind.Acknowledge the center of the space with a feature such as a cupola.

3.A barn represents permanence.Barns tend to be large and substantial structures.Historically, the barn was viewed to be the most valuable structure on a farm.Thus, barns have always functioned, and still remain, as semi-permanent structures.

A structure with great value and history develops a lovely patina.Some people believe that the building also absorbs something from the souls or spirits of humans and animals that pass through.Spend a moment in an old barn and feel the persistent echo of years, tears, laughter, and secrets.

Build your barn to last.

The barn is the place of horses.Like horses, the barn is beautiful, rhythmic, substantial and flexible.Step across the sunlit threshold into your own barn and think for a moment about the profound effect that this place has on your daily experiences, and ultimately on your memories.

Heather E. Lewis joined Animal Arts in August 2000 and has been a principal in the firm since 2004. Her primary area of expertise is the design and management of equine and large animal projects. She has been published on large animal facility design topics in Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult and Veterinary Practice News.