I am absolutely psyched to share this design project with you. This LEED certified building was designed by Pritzker Prize winning, Tokyo based design firm, SANAA for Grace Farms. SANAA is known for fluidly integrating inside and outside spaces to create an environment that is at one time a celebration of nature and a meditative shelter. I would say they most definitely brought that expertise to this project.
The building, aptly named The River, flows through a 80-acre natural environment in New Cannan, Connecticut that the non-profit Grace Farms Foundation is preserving as a gift of open space for people to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community and explore faith. The program of the building is very flexible but is mainly made up of five parts; sanctuary, library, commons, pavilion, and court. The sanctuary is made to hold 700 people, and although it is the largest space within The River, Grace Farms is quick to announce that the building is not a church. The library is a staffed library that holds books and other resources with topics on justice, the arts, nature and faith. This space also includes a glass-enclosed conference room and fireplace to facilitate discussion with a feeling of hospitality. The commons area includes a dining room and living room with 15 foot long communal tables built from trees harvested on-site. A coffee bar, sofas and fireplace offer hospitality and while the orientation of the commons provides expansive views of the site. The pavilion is the smallest space in The River and is used as the buildings visitors center and intimate performance venue.
The last space is the court area that is a partially below-grade gymnasium and multi-purpose space with adjoining media lab and game room. This space is especially designed for youth activities, recreation, receptions, and arts performances.
What makes this building so outstanding though is not the different components of the structure, the handcrafted furniture, or the Pritzker Prize winning designers, it is the values of the Grace Farms Foundation and the way they use The River. Their goals for the site are summed up into four categories:
- “Experience Nature: to draw people into the beautiful landscape, to enhance one’s experience of nature through all five senses, and to allow nature itself to inspire in us an experience of awe.
- “Foster Community: We hope to provide a warm, welcoming environment that fosters personal relationships through passive and active, social and artistic activities.
- “Pursue Justice: We will offer resources and feature opportunities to improve lives by helping others, showing mercy and advancing justice together.
- “Explore Faith: We aspire to create an environment for reflection, study, discussion and worship.”
If those aren’t good enough reasons to build a beautiful building, I don’t know what are.
(Thanks mom for sharing an article about this building with me!)