Pickle Barrel Scuppers

Duluth, Minnesota / United States of America


We started by asking, 'What do engineers need to learn, and what forces do they need to control?" In that pedagogical spirit, the LEED Gold, UMD James I Swenson Civil Engineering building was designed to teach students about materials, how they go together, how they age, and how they resist the forces in nature.

The exterior uses rusting steel, precast and poured-in-place concrete and reclaimed wood to create a place for designing, constructing, and testing.

The oversized scuppers, made with wood slats from reclaimed pickle barrels, create an expressive silhouette against the building backdrop. Providing striking visual imagery, the scuppers prevent rainwater from overflowing the sewer and causing environmental damage to local streams. Water is directed from the rooftop, down the scuppers, and into a trio of above ground Corten steel cylinders, then distributing the water into an underground French drain. This reused greywater fills the hydraulics laboratory flume for experiments, or gradually filters back into the hydrological site system.

The civil engineering department supported the mission of building as a teaching and recruiting tool. What aspiring civil engineer can resist a building that spouts water, corrodes constructively before your eyes — and has the biggest toys on campus?

Architect of record

Ross Barney Architects
Carol Ross Barney, FAIA

Associate architect

Mike Ryan
Burns + Beyerl Architects
1010 S. Wabash
Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Phone: 312-663-0222

General contractor

Dave Bartusek
Prairie Home Builders, LTD.
1815 W. Melrose
Chicago, IL 60657, USA
Phone: 773-528-6411

Consultant 1

Allison Henry
Fusion Interior Design
1457 N. Bell, #2
Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Phone: 773-227-1454

Consultant 2

Denise Rosenbloom
Botanical Concepts Chicago
528 W. Dickens
Chicago, IL 60614, USA
Phone: 773-404-5707


Nathan Kirkman
Nathan Kirkman Photography
1237 N. Artesian, Unit 2
Chicago, IL 60612, USA
Phone: 630-254-1935