SHED Uses a Simple Prefab Structure to Create a Home for Local Food

©. Jensen Architects

A lot of buildings are what Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown called "decorated sheds"- "Where systems of space and structure are directly at the service of program, and ornament is applied independently of them." - But sometimes, a shed is just a shed. That's the case with Jensen Architects' SHED in Healdsburg, 70 miles north of California. They even call it the Shed.

shed interior

© Jensen Architects

The Shed is sort of a permanent farmers market and store; Founders Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton " sought to create a place where the beauty and aliveness of the complete food cycle—the growing, preparing, and enjoying of food—would become visible, revealing and reinforcing the path from farm to table."

It is a gathering place for local residents, which celebrates the region’s farmers and makers while tapping into a global community of chefs, producers, and visitors. Its dinners and programs, crafted to revive the traditions of fellowship, conviviality, and exchange, feed a cultural appetite for ideas and interests ranging beyond the realm of food.
event space

© Jensen Architects

Upstairs, the Modern Grange, a large, flexible meeting space supported by a commercial kitchen and fully wired for audio-visual presentation, is designed for workshops, talks, exhibits, and film screenings as well as seed exchanges, farmer meet-ups, dinners, and live music. As a community resource SHED also welcomes private conferences, meetings, and celebrations.

© Jensen Architects

The building itself is based on portal frame construction, one of the most efficient and economical structures you can get; it is composed of extremely rigid frames covered with lighter gauge framing and cladding; the Butler building version has been popular for industrial and agricultural uses. Normally they are covered up and if they are used in commercial contexts, are "decorated" as Venturi might have said. Here, the frame is gloriously exposed and highlighted, almost as if to say "I am an agricultural building, not a seriously trendy shop". It is clad in insulated panels made from Zincalume, or galvanized steel sheeting, another common agricultural material.

The Zincalume exterior requires no maintenance and will weather to a dull patina over time, like the weather-beaten appearance of a classic galvanized steel garden pail.

Almost all of the wood that adds the warmth to the basic industrial shed is recycled.


© Jensen Architects

There is a lot to love about this project. The industrial architecture houses a different kind of store:

The 10,000-square foot, two-story retail space, offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the region's foods. The Cafe features an open kitchen, wood oven, and seasonal menus highlighting local farmers and producers. Visitors can also stop in at the Coffee Bar for coffee and espresso, or enjoy a selection of local wine, beer, or kombucha from the Fermentation Bar. The Larder and Pantry offer prepared dishes, house-made products, and other provisions from far and near. A communal table and more intimate seating weave between these components, inviting people to sit and enjoy the food and company.

In an age when Amazon and big boxes are eating everybody's lunch, it is great to see a business based on local, hands-on, experiential concepts that can't be duplicated online.


© Jensen Architects

To top off all of the interesting functional stories here, there are other architectural ones worth noting:

SHED's pre-engineered metal building system forms the core of an overarching sustainable design strategy made imperative by its mission. The systems’ structure and insulated, Zincalume metal panels are composed of 70 percent recycled steel and assemble to create a building shell that reduces energy demands and minimizes material use. The metal panels require no additional exterior or interior finishes—interior walls were simply painted with no-VOC paint—and simultaneously provide energy-saving thermal insulation and critical waterproofing.


Museum du peuple

Museum du peuple/ Jean Prouve/Public Domain

The nine roll-up doors and industrial construction of the SHED reminded me of one of my favorite buildings, that might have been a precedent for this. In 1935 Beaudouin and Lods worked with Jean Prouve ́ to develop "a ground-floor market with an upper floor to be fitted out as offices and a 1000-seater auditorium which could be converted into a cinema, housed in a fully modular building with partitions, a floor and a retractable roof." It was all prefabricated from common industrial materials.

Prouve drawing

Jean Prouve/Public Domain