Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center / De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

© Roberto de Leon

The Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center is situated within the historic property of the Garden Conservancy. The project required the rehabilitation of an existing tobacco barn with a program including a reception area, information and tickets sales, gift shop, plant sale area, group tour meeting zone, internet sales office, and storage. De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop were challenged with a modest construction budget of $64/sqf and a tight 5 month design and construction completion schedule. This design project was awarded a 2010 AIA Kentucky Honor Award.

Follow the break for further project description, photographs, and drawings of Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center.

Architects: De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop
Location: Crestwood, Kentucky,
Project Area: 1,842 sqf
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Roberto de Leon

© Roberto de Leon

The Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center is a new 1,842 sqf facility for a property founded in 1943 by horticulturalist & nurseryman Theodore Klein. The historic property, recognized for its unique collection of themed structures and gardens, is part of the Garden Conservancy, a national organization dedicated to saving and preserving America’s exceptional gardens.


Preserving the exterior iconic image of the tobacco barn structure, the new facility is designed as a ‘building-within-a-building’. For economy and energy efficiency, the project utilizes the shell of the existing barn as an independent shade structure, leaving it essentially unaltered with the exception of minor framing stabilization. Working with existing structural bay modules, new conditioned interior spaces are consolidated to one side of the barn interior while unconditioned spaces are designed as covered flexible-use areas. During low-humidity spring & fall seasons, frameless glass doors can be left open to merge both halves of the barn. Following state historic preservation guidelines, new construction is clearly differentiated from the existing structure through light-colored interior wood plank surfaces and material contrasts.

© Roberto de Leon

The use of light – both natural & artificial – is a key design element that transforms the facility throughout the day, affecting the transparency and visibility of the various programmatic components while amplifying the rustic characteristics of the existing tobacco barn. Acting as either a mirror or a transparent boundary depending on the viewing angle, tempered glass walls reflect & refract sunlight, views, and outer barn walls, emphasizing a sense of spaciousness while allowing the original barn to visually register within interior spaces. During the evening, the facility becomes a glowing lantern within the gardens, with the outer barn shell expressed though interior light filtering through gaps between the wood siding.


A conventional palette of materials, including milk-painted tongue & groove wood siding, tempered glass, and sealed concrete floors, is detailed with simplicity and precision.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center / De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop" 01 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • jw

    a simplistic idea executed beautifully— love the night photography showing the light filtering through.