Wilson AG Research Center

Completed as Project Architect for Marlon Blackwell Architects

The Wilson AG Research Center was envisioned to be the commercial agriculture component of the master plan project currently under way in Wilson Arkansas. Wilson, AR was historically a company town whose identity was centered around the commercial farming of cotton and has recently positioned itself to be the center of a new and smaller scale commercial farming model. The current farming model focuses on farm to table organic produce that is centered around contemporary and innovative southern cuisine.

This project was architecturally tasked with the adaptive reuse of an abandoned 1950’s middle school that was property of the City of Wilson. The programmatic aspirations of the project were to create an “agricultural think tank” that the community and commercial farmers could use to share information and develop new processes for farming at all scales in the Mississippi delta. The project had program for a diner, bodega, mercantile, classrooms, lecture hall, labs, and a dormitory for visiting farmers and academics. Once complete, the facility would position Wilson, AR as a hub for the development and sharing of strategies for agricultural revitalization.

In keeping with the aspirations of the project, the design of the facility cleanly re-skins the brick school in a metal screen rooted in the agricultural tectonic of bar grate and expanded metal. The new skin of the building reaches out to provide a deep shade entry porch which allows for the exterior of the building to be used in the summer. This new skin runs along the building creating a figure that ties the new construction dormitory at the back of the building to the rest of the existing renovated 1950’s school structure. The large lecture hall with adjacent commercial kitchen serves as the heart of the building providing the platform for the community and visiting professionals to share their vision for a new delta culinary experience.