WASHINGTON FRUIT & PRODUCE COMPANY
Location: Yakima, WA
Status: Completed 2016
Awards: 2016 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Honor Award, 2016 AIA Seattle Merit Award, 2016 The Architects Newspaper Honorable Mention for Building of the Year - West, 2017 Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, 2017 Architizer A+Award
Photos: Kevin Scott
Agriculture is the dominating influence in Yakima, where good volcanic soil, sunny days, and irrigation from the Yakima River support the area’s many fruit orchards. The area is a leader nationally in value of agricultural products sold.
Washington Fruit, family owned and operated since 1916, grows, packs and ships premium fruit products from the northwest throughout the world. The company’s facilities occupy 90 acres of industrial land, including some of the most advanced sorting and packing equipment in existence.
The project is located on flat, river-bed industrial land bordered by a major freeway. The fruit processing facilities that dominate the area are concrete tilt-up boxes, surrounded by acres of pavement, trucks and refrigeration equipment. Company leaders desired a new office/headquarters that would serve as a refuge from the industrial agribusiness landscape. They asked for warmer materials, little to no concrete, non-boxlike forms, protection from the freeway, and minimal visible equipment or devices. Light and acoustics were high priorities.
The approach for the new office was to create an inwardly focused oasis. The building is surrounded by earth berms and a site wall placed so that views out are directed upward toward the basalt hills and the foreground of freeways and industrial agribusiness are obscured. At the heart of the place is a landscaped courtyard onto which most of the project’s occupied spaces are oriented.
An abandoned wood barn was the single architectural reference given to the design team. The barn’s diagonal structural members were exposed and the remaining wood siding was deeply weathered. It provided a metaphor for the new building. It is imagined as a barn in some state of decay and nature in the process of reclamation. Parts of the simple gable form have been “removed” or lost. In those places glass is exposed and trees and grass are taking over. The structure is “exposed” and expressed as diagonals. Accordingly, columns are sloped and twisted. The outer shell is clad in reclaimed barnwood from nearby sources.
The lunchroom, which includes a kitchen and table for 30, provides a gathering space for weekly meals when field staff come in from the orchards. The event allows the people who grow the fruit to mingle with those who sell it.
Site planning to minimize heat gain and need for electric lighting was the main sustainability strategy. The best plan option was to orient the glazing north and some east. With back-of-house program kept to the west edge to block low west sun, the resulting “L” plan orients views to the north. Yakima averages 290 sunny days/year so the tall window wall almost eliminates the need for electric lighting. There is a south-facing clerestory to balance daylight. Photocells balance the light on darker days. Deciduous trees are densely planted at south windows of the lunchroom and executive offices.