The Agrarian Pantheon

Why am I an architect?

I already told the story of how I became an architect in the last #Architalks post. Therefore, here is the story of how my twin brother also became a (baby) architect. 

I was born. Jeffery, always following in my footsteps, was born 20 minutes later.
I made friends my age. Jeffery also made friends my age.
I accepted my High School diploma. Jeffery had to accept his diploma right after me!
I went to college to be an architect. Jeffery didn’t know what he wanted to study, so he took General Studies. Then after a year of watching me work late hours, and not even drinking on the weekends,|1| Jeffery decided that he too must become an architect.
Jeffery even inevitably knew that I would move to the worst state in the union, Alaska, so he omnipotently moved there one year prior to me even moving – constantly pre-following me across the country.

That was a story of how passion fosters an architect.

I guess that was a pretty short story. Here is another story about a red bucket:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural prowess is often granted to his aptitude for Froebel Blocks at age 9. Therefore, in an attempt to emulate Frank Lloyd Wright, all architects (trying to breathe the same rare air) constantly boast about playing with legos as children.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s teenage years were spent on the family farm – yet are rarely mentioned. So, in an opaque attempt to further pretend that I am as amazing as Frank Lloyd Wright, I too was raised in the countryside. For Frank Lloyd Wright’s overarching architectural credence of bringing nature inside can be directly attributed to his time as an agricultural teenage man-slave.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved nature, but his genius as an architect has as much to do with rural aesthetics as it does with nature. Pine cones composed in a Fibonacci sequence are beautiful, but structures held together with bailing twine and duct tape are also beautiful; for rural architecture is purely “form following function.”

Agricultural aesthetics on my family farm were concocted mainly of scrap metal, duct tape, J-B Weld, and plastic red buckets.

I don’t know where the plastic red bucket originated, but the red buckets began to multiply in appearance everywhere – creating a uniform aesthetic throughout the farm.

The original red bucket was probably first acquired to hold screws, nails, and miscellaneous items. Then the red bucket was used as an oil catch pan. Eventually, the red bucket migrated out of the shop, and was used to store the remaining lawn fertilizer. An identical red bucket was deconstructed, cut up, JB-welded, and riveted to make mud flaps on the 4-wheeler. And eventually the red bucket was stuffed into the top of a grain bin, after the metal lid blew off, and became the most breathtaking architectural sight – the oculus of the Agrarian Pantheon. 

One day while sweeping the remaining, fermenting, grain inside the bottom of a grain bin, the wind suddenly slammed the door shut – to isolate me in apparent total darkness. It was completely opaque except for a tiny red oculus providing respite from the blackness. It was as if I were in a James Turrell exhibit. The glowing red orb could have been 1000’ above my head, or a mere 20’. As I stared at the orb, I could feel my feet slowly sink a little lower into the small pile of grains.|2| The weight of the universe seemed to be pressing down on my shoulders. Then, in a sudden gust, once again, the door flew back open, just as fast as it slammed shut; eliminating any glowing red light, and transplanting oneself back upon the human realm – of sweeping grain bins and chasing mice. 

Years later I attempted to capture the Agrarian Pantheon on camera – for the world to see. But architecture is about experience, and it’s often difficult to capture experience in a single image.|3| 

Academics who often debate “What is Architecture?” rarely will agree that a grain bin with a broken lid, and a red bucket crammed in the top to temporarily restrain water, could be included as an architectural masterpiece comparable to The Pantheon in Rome. But the Agrarian Pantheon was indeed a sight to behold. Perhaps even more spectacular than the actual Pantheon.|4| The Agrarian Pantheon is a repository for food that can feed starving people; the actual Pantheon cannot store food, because its oculus would allow way too much moisture – ultimately sprouting the grains within.|5| 

The sight of a red bucket isn’t the sole reason I am an architect today. But the red bucket is the embodiment of rural principles. Locally sourced “materials” are used to fix, repair, and build a uniform community. This “sense of place” is often lost within larger cities – by using local materials, there becomes a thread|6| of homogeneity that weaves through rural life.

As a child I often yearned to escape this country patchwork to embark upon the more active city – with friends, culture, and Dairy Queen Blizzards. This yearning to leave the country may have helped me to become an architect, but the appreciation of agricultural aesthetics ultimately drove my influence upon design.

Architecture is experience. Architecture is the power to amaze and delight. And architecture can even be a red bucket stuck in the top of a grain bin.




Click the purple numerals to transport between hyperlinks

1 No drinking on some weekends. AND no drinking on any random Wednesday!
2 I was not yet scrooge McDuck swimming through the grains.
3 This is my excuse for taking poor pictures.
4 I didn’t need to be a cultured world traveler as a child, because rural kids are imaginative. A mere 100 yards from the Agrarian Pantheon I could visit the Grand Canyon. It was an expansive 10 feet wide chasm, 6 feet deep. Oftentimes I could imagine tourists wanting to come see my Grand Canyon after being disenchanted by the actual one – inevitably, nobody came.
5 And if you’ve never cleaned grain bins, then you have never experienced the awful stench of fermented grains, permeated with mouse nests.
6 Albeit, a tenuous thread – and perhaps duct tape instead of thread.

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. It’s similar to those 3rd grade art projects – where every classmate gets the same piece of (photocopied) paper with identical squiggly marks as a starting point – and then all the students use their creativity to produce an original masterpiece. This month’s theme is Why I am an Architect.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Why I am an Architect (and not an Astronaut)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Why am I an architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
why i am an architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Why I am an architect

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Purpose in the Profession

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“why i am an architect…”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Why I am an Architect

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Why did you become an Architect?

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
I like to make and create.

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I am what I am…

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Why I am an Architect, when I could have been a Mathematician #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Why I Am an Architect


  1. Brady, Great story. You know you got it going on when you can write such a great story without the use of pictures. But dang..I really want to see that red bucket! -Steve

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Steve.
      I tried really hard to find an image of a similar red bucket. But google could not find a generic enough red bucket. Apparently you cannot even purchase such nondescript items (maybe on Alibaba). Perhaps I will provide a rough sketch…

  2. Omnipotency and “being an architect” in the same article?

    Of course – makes complete sense to me.

    Now I have to see about that Agrarian Pantheon image … where is it?

    • brady ernst

      So… my hard drive has since crashed holding all my “amazing” pictures. I might post a picture, but the idea of a beautiful grain bin is oftentimes better left to most people’s imaginations.

  3. Jeffrey

    Hmmm. That’s two weeks in a row that you’ve climbed onto the soapbox to take a jab at me. Therefore, it’s important that somebody is holding your journalistic integrity accountable. I too remember the red buckets. I always thought they were a result of massive consumption of Wilcoxson’s ice-cream. One gallon bucket at a time. Regardless, the function of the bucket in the grain bins was never a temporary lid or cover, the top hole was much too large. The buckets served as a plug on the side near the floor of the bin that could be easily removed to attach a drying fan. When the fan was removed the buckets prevented mice and small animals from entering. There was never a glowing oculus and it seems to me that was just a bunch of juicy language to commandeer a few more viewers from Mr. Borson’s influence.
    Furthermore, I did not merely become an Architect because I felt compelled to follow you into the education or the profession, though it was helpful to have someone tell me which brand of gauche to purchase in 1st year. Have I ever told you about why I became an architect…

    • brady ernst

      Jeffery! Get your own soapbox.

      I think you are right. They were definitely the vessels for our Wilcoxsons’s ice cream addiction.

      I totally forgot that the red buckets also were in the sides of the bins. But it was also definitely an oculus – I think in bin #7, which had a smaller top lid. I don’t know why I was sweeping alone this particular time – you must’ve been still mastering your gouache painting techniques.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *