Promoting the agri-food culture of the Jutland area in northwest Denmark, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter’s House of Grain is the realization of a new center for the dissemination of the region’s rich food and farming culture.
House of Grain has recently been awarded a 2023 International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Located on the land of an existing farm and bakery, the new inspiration center will offer visitors, locals, and employees alike a facility for activity-based learning centered around the importance of grain both to Jutland and human civilization.
The building is organized around a simple and flexible plan, which allows for a wide variety of activities and functions to take place.
The architectural form is derived from research into the region’s rich landscape, folk culture, and agricultural heritage – the center being defined by its two brick-clad light wells, which reinterpret baker’s kilns.
The interior is planned to open up to the vast expanse of wheat fields to the west – framing views outward and opening to the terrace.
The public spaces are centered around a large bread oven while teaching and exhibition spaces are demarked by the natural lighting and increased volume of the skylights.
At first glance, the competition program – which started in 2017, appears simple and unpretentious, but it turns out to be quite ambitious, almost rebellious.
The client wanted a 600-square-meter visitor center and exhibition space with an in-house bakery, boutique, and café.
A fairly small and modest building situated on a flat piece of land next to the Aurion company and grain mill.
Here, Jørn and his company have been cultivating almost forgotten heritage cereals since the mid-1970s, and after almost five decades of alternative food production, they are now ready to take the mission one step further, recreating a somehow lost culture of food production based on biological farming techniques.
As one of the leading grain experts in the Nordic region, The House of Grain is set to become an independent knowledge and experience center dedicated to rediscovering the missing link between sustainable food production and modern ways of living.
A progressive and laudable endeavor. But, the mission the architects were about to join was, in its own discrete way, part of a growing ecological battle in Denmark where small enthusiastic companies, such as the Aurion company, and committed people, such as Jørn, are up against very powerful economic and political forces. Stitching the spatial program for The House of Grain together on a piece of tracing paper was not a big task.
The architects felt from the very beginning that the functional puzzles and construction principles deserved a straightforward solution.
The architects were very fascinated by the local architectural vernacular of weather-beaten barns and old farmhouses and could look in any direction to find great sources of inspiration.
Even the wind-polished trees and dark brown soil stretching toward the horizon gave us hints about the atmosphere the architects were trying to create.
But how could we, as architects, possibly respond to the apparent death spiral of industrial food production and the bleak environmental conditions defining the larger context?
After meeting with Jørn and realizing the progressive aspects of his mission, the architects felt compelled to formulate a viable path between the two dominant positions in the public debate.
A way in between denial and apocalyptic environmentalism.
With this perspective in mind, designing an energy-efficient building using recyclable materials and other techno-fix solutions seemed somehow obsolescent.
Facing the complex issues at stake the architects had to move beyond conventional design thinking.
The architects could not rely on a knee-jerk response of best-practice engineering and symbolic representations of good intentions.
The architects felt a strong desire to come up with a human response and were deeply in doubt about whether or not aesthetics could be employed as a strategic tool.
The daunting question facing them was, how to translate Jørn’s silent activism into an architectural manifestation.
Project: House of Grain
Architects: Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter
Lead Architect: Reiulf Daniel Ramstad
General Contractor: Trigon Holding A/S
Client: Kornets Hus
Photographers: Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter