A Wooden Ghost in the Great Smokeys

For two weeks, A+A is featuring guest posts by some of this nation’s finest architects, curators and designers. We made a simple request of each: Give us 300 words about your favorite building and its architect, and why both are important. Today, Chad Everhart, master of the agrarian shed, revels in the magic of a 19th-century Smokey Mountains barn.

By Chad Everhart, AIA

For those who know me personally or know my work, my favorite building type should be no surprise.  As far as those who know nothing of my design philosophy, my single favorite building will illustrate the convictions I have towards architecture better than anything.

My favorite building is not located in a center of fashion like New York or Paris.  It is not built of robust materials like concrete or steel.  It has no architect.  It probably has no specific builder other than its owner.  Little is known about it, yet it is seen by over 2 million visitors annually.

Nestled in Cades Cove, an historic area within the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, is a building known as the Tipton Barn. It’s an example of the unique double-cantilevered crib barn indigenous to a very small region of east Tennessee and western North Carolina.  It was originally constructed around 1880, but rebuilt in 1968 as a part of historic preservation efforts in the Park.  It is my favorite building.

I found web images of the Tipton Barn in 2007 while studying vernacular architecture of Appalachia as a part of my research endeavors as a professor.  Fascinated by the discovery, I continued to research the building and stumbled upon an obscure book about the region’s cantilevered barns in the Special Collections section of Appalachian State’s library.  The book taught me about the origins, purpose, and construction of the Tipton barn as well as cantilevered barns as a building typology, causing me to become more intrigued and craving a site visit.

In the summer of 2012, I was fortunate enough to take a trip with my family to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and, of course, a visit to Cades Cove was essential.  As I approached the Tipton Barn, it was as if I saw a wooden ghost hovering in the picturesque landscape, defying gravity and transcending time.  What I had admired through photographs and writings came to life on my pilgrimage, leaving a lasting impression that often haunts me as I work.

In a single building, the Tipton Barn of Cades Cove, I find the embodiment of my convictions to making buildings: plainness, necessity, and local derivation.  For me, it is proof that even the simplest of buildings – a barn – can be memorable.

Chad Everhart, AIA is an associate professor and coordinator of the Building Science program at Appalachian State University and principal of Chad Everhart Architect, PA in Boone, NC.  His research and professional work have won several awards and been featured in numerous periodicals, academic journals, and juried exhibitions.

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