Grace Farms-The River Building
Grace Farms-The River Building designed by Japan’s SANAA, the Pritzer Prize-winning duo of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. The River building will include a sanctuary space for Grace Community Church, a library, a dining room, a gymnasium, and children’s spaces, and it will sit on the Foundation’s 80-acre site amid a landscape designed by Philadelphia’s OLIN, celebrates the beauty of nature through landscape and creates a welcoming environment that fosters relationships, wellness, and reflection.
OLIN teamed with SANAA to create this innovative non-profit facility dedicated to serving both the local community of New Canaan and the Grace Farms Foundation. The design for Grace Farms is inspired by the site’s historically pastoral character. OLIN and SANAA’s design approach was to touch the land as lightly as possible while incorporating a diverse set of programs and amenities to serve New Canaan’s need for public space. SANAA’s sinuous building evokes the image of a river, its windowed façade and low profile helping it to blend harmoniously with OLIN’s landscape. Drives, walks and trails and gathering spaces within the landscape were designed to embody a range of characters, from a cultivated town village to agrarian fields and managed woodland. The landscape evokes a sense of warmth, elegance, and authenticity—all defining a positive atmosphere and an engaging experience for visitors and neighbors of Grace Farms.
Located on 80 acres in the same Connecticut town as the Philip Johnson Glass House, the 83,000-square-foot (8,000-sm) building is “designed to blend almost transparently into woodlands, wetlands and meadows with a landscape per a statement from Grace Farms. The sinuous design is meant to further the Foundation’s goal of experiencing nature, fostering community, pursuing justice and exploring faith.
“Our goal with the River is to make the architecture become part of the landscape. We hope that those who are on the property will have a greater enjoyment of the beautiful environment and changing seasons through the spaces and experience created by the River.” – Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation President
SANAA’s goal was to make the architecture of the River become part of the landscape without drawing attention to itself, or even feeling like a building, with the hope that those who are on the property will have a greater enjoyment of the beautiful environment and changing seasons through the spaces and experience created by the River. Under the continuous roof are five transparent glass-enclosed volumes that can host a variety of activities and events, while maintaining a constant sense of the surrounding natural environment. In sequence, they are:
- Sanctuary: a 700-person sanctuary/indoor amphitheater (20,900 sf)
- Library: a staffed library with resources to research justice, the arts, nature and faith. It includes a glass-enclosed conference room and fireplace for discussion and hospitality, as well as Grace Farms Foundation offices. (4,550 sf)
- Commons: a dining room and living room, with capacity for 300, with communal tables built from trees harvested on-site, a coffee bar, sofas and fireplace, offering hospitality and expansive views. A lower level accomodates a lecture hall and ancillary spaces. (14,400 sf)
- Pavilion: a staffed welcome center where visitors can be oriented to Grace Farms, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea or listen to intimate musical performances (950 sf)
- Court: a partially below-grade gymnasium/multi-purpose space with adjoining media lab and game room, for recreation, youth activities, receptions and arts performances (16,900 sf)
- Barn: The original barn was renovated to serve as a welcome center with a greeting space in each of its two wings. The barn will also house many of the day-to-day programs, with classrooms, an art studio, a rehearsal space with sprung floor, offices, a lounge, a nursery and a drop-off food pantry to support the justice program.
Grace Farms is a welcoming new place, where a building designed by SANAA is seamlessly integrated into 80 acres of open space for people to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith.
A diverse natural habitat in the northeast corner of New Canaan, Connecticut, this former horse farm is home to numerous varieties of flora and fauna. Approximately 77 of the 80 acres will be retained in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands, and ponds.
Known as the River because of the way it meanders through the rolling terrain, the SANAA building seamlessly integrates into the natural setting at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Nestled into the landscape, the River begins on a knoll and then flows down the long, gentle slope in a series of bends, forming pond-like spaces on its journey. Structurally, the building of glass, concrete, steel and wood is in essence a single long roof, which seems to float some 10 to 14 feet above the surface of the ground as it twists and turns across the landscape. The walkways, courtyards and glass-wrapped volumes that form beneath the roof are remarkably transparent and invite people to engage with the expansive natural surroundings.
To create a venue of cultural interest and curiosity via open space, architecture, art and design in hopes of providing people with a chance to do the following:
- Experience Nature: Our aim is to draw people into this beautiful landscape, to enhance one’s experience of nature through all five senses, and to allow nature itself to inspire in us 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 will aspire to create an environment for reflection, study, discussion and worship.
Nestled into the rolling landscape of Grace Farms, the River begins on a knoll and then flows down the long, gentle slope (a change in grade of 43 ft) in a series of bends, forming pondlike spaces on its journey. Structurally, the building of glass, concrete, steel and wood is in essence a single long roof, which seems to float above the surface of the ground as it twists and turns across the landscape. The walkways, courtyards and glasswrapped volumes that form beneath the roof are remarkably transparent and invite people to engage with the expansive natural surroundings.
Project name: Grace Farms-The River Building
Location: 365 Lukes Wood Road, New Canaan, Connecticut 06840, United States
Coordinates: 41.196223, -73.512045
Type: Community Centre
- River Building – 83,000 gross sq.ft
- Barn Footprints – 13,242 gross sq.ft
Site Area: 80-acres
- Total project cost: $83 million
- Construction cost: $67 million
Completion Date: October 2015
Visit Grace Farms’s website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Grace Farms Foundation
Architects: SANAA – 1-5-27 Tatsumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-0053 Japan
Principal: Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa
Project Team: Shohei Yoshida, Takayuki Hasegawa, Tommy Haddock
Executive Architect: Handel Architects
Landscape Architect: OLIN Studio
Project Manager: Paratus Group
- MEP Engineer and Lighting: Buro Happold
- Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
- Civil Engineer: McChord Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineer: Langan Engineering
- Geothermal Engineer: Alderson Engineering
- Sustainability Consultant: Transsolar
- Building Envelope: Front
- Acoustics: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, Nagata Acoustics
- Meadow Consultant: Larry Weaver Landscape
- Soils and Wetlands: Environmental Planning Services
- Conservation Planning and Herpetologist: Michael W. Klemens LLC
- Graphics: Pentagram
- Construction Manager: Sciame
- Glazing: Roschmann Steel & Glass
- Roofing: Zahner