Presented by: Abigail Regan, Judy Theodorson

“To those traveling the great highways of the Midwest, silos appear like cathedrals, and in fact they are the cathedrals of our time” Aldo Rossi, NY 1992.1  PURPOSE This graduate design research project, ReSilo, is a typological study of recontexualized industrial silos from around the world. The intent is to recognize the narratives that link the silos; this is done by comparatively analyzing the physical, spatial, historical, cultural, and programmatic characteristics. Ultimately, this research informs the design direction for the recontextualization of the abandoned Latah grain silos in Moscow, Idaho.  CONTEXT Silos are iconic and admired landmarks of rural landscapes.2 Artists and architects have found allure and beauty in the geometric purity of their construction and symbolism related to industry and the rural landscape.1 The silo’s exterior beauty is self evident, however, the interiors, which reflect the complex system of grain distribution and storage, are unfamiliar too most.1 These interior conditions offer unusual and remarkable spatial experiences, made even richer by their historical and cultural significance.  ReSilo is grounded in the premise that each silo has a story to tell; a story of unconventional interior spaces, of history and agriculture, and of culture and community. As abandoned silos are increasingly targeted for recontextualization, ReSilo challenges design briefs to consider these silos as unique entities within a global narrative, connecting the structures in their new, repurposed state. The idea of a global narrative has proved successful with the online map of ‘Little Free Libraries’ (see Appendix A) where one can view or even build and post their story and design to the page, becoming a mark on their online map. METHOD This project examines approximately 50 recontextualized silos worldwide. Mixed methods of data collection are used for each site including the examination of historical documents, photographs, scholarly journals, international design websites, travel blogs and personal experiences. The information is categorized according to history, context, details of the original silo; its new use (purpose, materials & design), its significance to the community and its success.  Each site is graphically analyzed through a series of scaled drawings including areal views, section cuts and elevations (see Appendix B). An interactive, customized google map was used to visually represent the comparative analysis undertaken, pinning every case study (see Appendix C). The interactive map acts as the base of the global narrative for repurposed silos over the world to network and communicate, raising awareness to opportunities and reasons to how others treat these unique structures as well as their success and failures.  OUTCOMES The knowledge gained in the research informs the design brief and conceptual direction for the abandoned Latah grain silo in Moscow, Idaho. There are two significant outcomes. First, the design direction shifted from a program based approach to one that values and celebrates the unique interior space and the cultural significance of the existing structures. Second, the idea of a global narrative contextualizes the silo project as a contributing to a larger collective, raising the potential of historical, artistic, and cultural tourism. (see appendix D)


  • Mahar-Keplinger, L. (1993). Grain elevators (pp. 8-9). New York: Princeton Architectural Press. (number 2- pg 11, number 74)
  • Banham, R. (1986). A concrete Atlantis: US industrial building and European modern architecture 1900-25. MIT Press.
  • Tichgelaar, J. H. (2012). Preserved in alcohol: case studies of adaptive reuse projects by McMenamins, Inc (Doctoral dissertation, [Sl: sn]).