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Trends: Two Members Take an Unusual and Highly Effective Approach to Designing a Farm Operations Facility

About M. Ross Primmer, AIA, and Roberto C. de Leon Jr., AIA, LEED® AP: Messrs. Primmer and de Leon cofounded De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, located in Louisville, in 2003. They regularly lecture on their design approach at universities and design/architecture symposiums and participate in urban and citywide strategic focus groups and committees. Mr. de Leon recently served as a panelist at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. Mr. Primmer has served on the board of Louisville’s Metro Government Landmark Commission.

Your firm has a lot of experience with projects that integrate buildings into the fabric of parklands and other rural open spaces. What are some of the design considerations on such projects?

In addition to the relationship between a project’s program and its physical site, we are always mindful of local culture, regional traditions, and the complexity of site histories. Approaching a project with this broader understanding of its context often leads us to a more nuanced response to the specificity of site and project.

The Mason Lane Farm Operations Facility is remarkable for the simplicity of its materials and construction methods. Given the range of highly advanced—but complicated—materials and methods available today, what is the appeal of such simplicity?

While we embrace emerging technologies and methods, we also appreciate rigor and restraint, and an affinity that comes with the familiar.

The facility is a LEED Silver project, but you achieved that with some decidedly low-tech methods. What lessons can you share with architects who want to achieve sustainability credentials while working within tight budgets?

The project’s sustainability began as a critique of the green products/systems market. We posed the challenge of achieving LEED certification through accessible strategies of sustainability within the more traditional/regional construction industry without incurring the cost of specialized systems, products, or building techniques. We looked to passive strategies inherent in the region’s historic building vernacular. The project actually qualified for LEED Gold through the purchase of utility energy packets; however, the client decided it wasn’t in the spirit of the project goals.

The property’s owner often takes students on stargazing tours, which created some lighting challenges that most architects don’t have to face. Can you explain how you addressed those challenges?

We only used outdoor lighting from an operations safety standpoint—they are always off but have a manual override to keep them on (it was important that the outdoor lighting did not accidentally turn off while heavy equipment was being operated). In addition, the barns are configured so that all outdoor lighting needs are clustered into an internalized zone of the site. This configuration eliminates all light power densities beyond the project boundary.


Mason Lane Farm Operations

2013 Institute Honor Award
for Architecture Recipient

Architect: De Leon & Primmer
Architecture Workshop

Owner: Eleanor Bingham


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Member Spotlight

Roberto C. de Leon Jr., AIA,
LEED AP, and M. Ross
Primmer, AIA
De Leon & Primmer
Architecture Workshop
117 South Shelby Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Phone: 502-582-6295

De Leon & Primmer
Architecture Workshop is a
collaborative design studio
with a focus on cultural,
public, and civic projects. The
firm’s design approach draws
inspiration from regional
traditions of craft and
fabrication, with an emphasis
on conventional materials and
construction methods.


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