Driving through Connecticut is always a pleasure, especially during the fall when the changing of the seasons is reflected in the color of the leaves. Angy and I often head outside the city this time of year, so when Grace Farms officially opened their doors to the public last week, we had the perfect excuse for a day trip to visit the newest site of the Tokyo based architectural studio, SANAA.
Located on a former horse farm in the Northeast of New Canaan CT, the beautifully designed cultural center and the headquarters of the Grace Farms Foundation is situated on 80 acres of open rural space. The building will provide the setting for community events, art programs, a non-denominational church for the exploration of different faiths and various other activities related to the pursuit of justice. True to the building’s moniker, the “River”, the unique winding design of the interconnected canopy seamlessly mimics the rolling hills of the property while offering panoramic views of the surrounding woodlands.
There are five main structures along the “River”… a Sanctuary that acts as an auditorium, a Library to house publications dedicated to the foundation’s initiatives, the Commons where people can meet on communal tables for fresh meals and drinks, a Pavilion for tea service and the Court, a multi purpose indoor athletic facility.
The structures are constructed with floor to ceiling windows on both sides, so the traditional division between outdoor and indoor space is often blurred when you walk along the path of the building. What becomes apparently clear throughout every structure is the prominence of the surrounding landscape.
I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite artists, Olafur Eliasson had works displayed throughout the center including his textile piece entitled Mat for Multidimensional Prayers made of woven wool from Icelandic grey sheep. His light based work, Suspended Rain, is set to be installed in 2016 and for those unfamiliar with this particular work, it will be worth the visit just to experience this site-specific installation in person.
As we departed this beautiful facility, I was left feeling fortunate to live close to so many great works of art, design and architecture. New Canaan is known in design circles predominantly for the architectural works of the Harvard Five. As many may already know, the infamous Glass House, designed by Philip Johnson is located only a short distance away. Perhaps it is befitting of a town that redefined the meaning of a modern home, to also reinterpret the definition of a modern cultural center.