Willoughby Design Barn / el dorado

© Mike Sinclair

Complementing an existing 1880’s farmhouse on a working farm outside of Kansas City, Missouri, Willoughby Design Barn is utilized as an event space in connection with the client’s work as a graphic designer / business identity consultant. Aside from the industrial and agricultural functions that comprise the entire lower level of the barn, the program includes an open event space, an insulated and climate controlled utility / toilet room area, and a sleeping loft.

Follow the break for drawings and photographs of this project designed by el dorado.

Architects: el dorado inc
Location: , Missouri,
Project Area: 2,750 sqf
Photographs: Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

Siting the structure was extremely challenging. The goal of the design team was to form a balance between the existing farmhouse and the barn. The barn was carefully sited to the north of the farmhouse so as to not overpower it, and to take advantage of favorable breezes emanating from an adjacent wooded ravine. Its location is directly adjacent to the ruins of the farm’s original corncribs, which can be seen in photographs as a series of four linear limestone walls.

site plan

The barn frame was salvaged from a deteriorating barn structure being demolished on an adjacent farm. The spirit of reclamation is in character with the efficient nature of rural Missouri. In addition to the frame, many of the interior finish materials were also reclaimed: flooring (salvaged from a demolished grade school gymnasium), heavy oak stair treads, cypress trim and the pine boards that sheath the interior construction. The copper skin has a recycled material content of 90 percent. The total recycled / salvaged percentage for the project (based on the cost of materials) was 56 percent.

© Mike Sinclair

The program developed by the client and architect called for a straightforward yet spirited solution. All efforts were made to avoid undue “appropriation” of the existing pine frame, in order to maintain its integrity.


What struck the design team from the start was the dynamic nature of the site. Seasonal changes in Northern Missouri are extreme. The site is bounded by mature oak and black walnut trees to the north and east, by ornamental trees and gardens to the west, and by a vast expanse of working cropland to the south. As the soil is tilled and planted, and as the crops grow and are harvested, the site benefits from a constantly changing sensory palette. The design of the barn structure reflects this dynamic nature.

floor plans

Translucent fiberglass panels allow for abundant filtered daylight.  The floor has been peeled away from the wall in many places, allowing for a perimeter lighting detail that washes the base of the upper level walls, while completely illuminating the work areas on the lower level. The floor has been similarly peeled away against the stairs and against the utility tower. Four large glazed barn doors, protected by generous overhanging awnings, will allow the event space to be completely opened up to the elements during the eight months per year it is utilized. Finally, all non-fiberglass exterior surfaces were clad in 16 ounce corrugated copper, which will patina naturally over the years, and which require no additional interior or exterior finish.

© Mike Sinclair

Materials used in the project include: salvaged pine barn frame; concrete foundation; corrugated copper and fiberglass skin; reclaimed interor pine siding and oak flooring; custom cypress barn doors; custom copper and steel awning system; ironwood and steel deck and ramp system.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Willoughby Design Barn / el dorado" 31 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=106333>