an exercise in observing.

Agri-Tech Catalog: grain elevator

without comments

The hybrid building-machine that inspired a generation of designers...

Like the tractor, one of the most influential agricultural inventions is the ‘modern’ grain-elevator. Despite varying in physical form/construction these structures would generally all house the mechanisms to receive, weigh, grade, separate, store, clean, and redistribute bio-material. The consolidation of these various functions in one efficient place forever changed farms and agriculture by re-wiring the method in which bio-material was moved. Any construction or technical changes that would  increase efficiency or scale immediately affected the surrounding farming enterprises in an elevator’s catchment area.

Before, the technology of elevators allowed them to serve a greater catchment area (and thus contributed to larger consolidated farms) these ‘sentinels’ defined an era in agriculture and agrarian settlement, most notably in the towns where many elevators were erected.

Famous Elevator Row (Inglis, Manitoba Canada) -, these 25,000 bushel elevators lined early agrarian towns

Originally the location of these structures was based on a delicate balance between a large enough volume of bio-material to warrant a rail line and a given distance a farmer could travel, today’s elevators can reach mega sizes that best fit larger farm operations.

One of the 'World's Largest' grain elevators - Hutchinson, Kansas USA

On a design level, these hybrid-machine-buildings once dubbed ‘Prairie Sentinels’ were also very influential, inspiring an entire generation of designers interested in exploring a functional/engineering aesthetic.

In our current ‘age of crisis’ (for example crisis in agriculture, food security, and ecology) one might wonder what the new ‘elevator’/silo would do, how it would work, and subsequently what impacts that would have on design professions. Might the new elevator trigger a new ‘modernism’?

Some excellent resources on grain elevators can be found on a variety of Canadian Heritage Websites:

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

Verlo (photos)

National Film Board (video)

Written by Matthew

February 22nd, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Leave a Reply