Agribusiness Vernacular Achitecture

I often drive Intersate 57 between Champaign and Chicago, Illinois, and for the past 5 years or so have been intrigued by the industrial facility on the west side of the highway near Gillman. There isn’t a lot of industry out that way, other than grain elevators, truck stops, and the like.

This is the soybean oil extraction facility of Incobrasa Industries, Ltd. According to EPA documents on the web, it’s owners are three residents of Gillman, one of whom is also the plant manager. Forgive me if I’m dubious, but there has got to be a sugar daddy behind this local industry. Maybe its the half-mile long line up of tanker cars with “INCOBRASA INDUSTRIES” on the side?

What has always caught my eye about this plant is that–quite unlike the ADM and Staley plants in Decatur–this plant is clearly intended to invoke the vernacular buildings of countryside around it. The buildings are painted in a neutral brown, similar to the color of ripe soybean fields. And driving south or north, it is hard to miss the gigantic structure with a distinctly barn-like roof. They even left a small farm house standing on the property, apparently little used, but there to help make this outsized facility “blend in” somehow. Why bother, I wonder with all the pretense?

Pictures taken, my mission is complete. I’m on my way to Chicago, home of real gritty industry. File this one in “for further research.”

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