River Saint Joe Brewery by Moss Design puts vernacular industrial architecture for contemporary use

Evoking the industrial, architectural vernacular of the rustic Midwest, St. Joe’s Winery by Moss Design is a contemporary hangout in an energy-efficient mogul barn. Designed for a small farm-to-table brewery, the project incorporated local materials and made the most of its Buchanan, Michigan location.

The need to update the traditional column shed design largely stems from the fact that column sheds are not site specific. Historically, there have been advantages to this in terms of manufacturing and cost, but there are shortcomings in energy efficiency, which have made buildings more expensive over time. By taking the traditional column barn design—essentially a rectangular prism—and raising the roof on one side, extending the raised end to the top, and opening a corner of the facade, the Saint Joe’s River Brewery took its shape.

Process drawings show the design evolution of the adaptation of the moss to the barn column classification. (Courtesy of Moss Design)

The facade is largely corten stainless steel, in this case corrugated. The cladding is typical of industrial buildings in the area, and given the surface area of ​​the facade, the cladding side panels were cost effective. Charred cedar has been added to the smaller door and window openings, and provides “a human scale,” according to moss founder Matt Nardella. Siding was attached to insulated structural panels (SIP), which form the wall between the columns, via furring strips, to form the rainscreen pool. The Glass Corten opens in one corner, wrapping around the upper level section just below the top.

the corner
(Kendall McGuerty/Hall + Merrick Photographers/Courtesy of Moss Design)

Given the rural location, the construction process was planned to be “as modular as possible”. The columns, roof trusses and external SIP walls were manufactured off-site and only had to be raised in place and attached upon delivery. The roof trusses are manufactured by Big C Lumber, and the SIP walls are manufactured by Thermocore. The cadence of the 48-inch columns and trusses is the same as in a traditional column shed, with energy efficiency coming largely from the ceiling and suspended portion. Siding is installed like an ordinary rain assembly, which makes installation uncomplicated.

The facade punctuates the upper part, which slopes south to improve the solar array on it, which powers the brewery. By orienting the building, especially the roof, to maximize sunlight for the solar panels, the modern column barn has compensated for the lack of electrical connections near the site. The rooftop also accommodates the height required for fermenters, fermentation cabinets, and associated equipment required by a brewery, as well as an office, restrooms, and kitchen. The overhang is deeper in the glass corner, with custom arms that form a unique roof shape and protrude from a flat facade.

The Corten facade evokes the bygone eras of industrial architecture in the Midwest, while the sloping prominence maximizes solar power. (Kendall McGuerty/Hall + Merrick Photographers/Courtesy of Moss Design)

Aside from being cost-effective, Corten and carbonized wood also develop an exterior appearance over time and reflect light well. Instead of designing an aesthetically appealing structure for its opening, Moss Design’s River St. Joe Prior plant would age gracefully while providing an energy-efficient adaptation of general Midwest industrial architecture.

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