• The Low Plains illustrations document old, hand-built agricultural sheds in the Texas landscape, capturing their essence before they vanish completely from our world, replaced by the placeless, prefabricated metal buildings of the modern economy. See more at lowplains.net. Illustration by Low Plains.

Low Plains is the alias of John Redington, Assoc. AIA, a graduate architect at Clayton&Little Architects in Austin. Under this moniker, Redington pursues his fascination with the old, dilapidated agricultural sheds of timber and corrugated iron that are an integral part of the Texas rural landscape. He spends many of his weekends driving around the countryside in his pickup truck, looking for prime examples of this ubiquitous but little-noticed and quickly vanishing building type, then documenting them, first with photography, and later, back in his studio apartment, with illustration.

The illustrations are as straightforward and unpretentious as the structures they describe, and they convey a good deal of these sheds’ ramshackle charm, as well as the artist’s affection for his subject matter. Mapped out first with a straightedge and ink on paper, then silk-screened on flat stock, the drawings have a flattened quality reminiscent of folk art (lowplains.net’s tagline is “Folk Architecture: Tejas”) but with more precision in scale and proportion, telltales of Redington’s architectural training. Stripped of clinging vegetation and any other context, the sheds are presented as discrete objects, ready for study and contemplation, like specimens laid out on the examining table.

Redington earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Texas Tech University and followed it up with a master’s in architecture from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He completed the Ghost Lab Design/Build Internship in Nova Scotia, worked for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and spent a year knocking around Tasmania and Australia, where he attended the Glen Murcutt International Master Class. But he never lost touch with his roots. Redington grew up on what he calls a “humble cow farm” in Frisco, “before it got mall [expletive].” His travels and education do play into his artistic work, which is not quite as naïve as it first appears. The Low Plains website includes an essay, an intellectual interrogation of the lowly shed buildings. Louis Sullivan and Donald Judd are quoted; the sheds are related to Deconstruction, Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Arts and Crafts movement. Redington ponders whether the cross-ventilation created by punctures in a shed’s walls could earn it a LEED certificate. In the end, he concludes that the sheds’ “forms,
patterns, and relationship with nature” offer clues to how buildings could be designed today.

Aaron Seward is editor of Texas Architect.

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