Grace Farms

Currents visiting buildings and landscapes

Danielle Fleischmann

It is always a gift to be away from the bustle and crowd that is New York City and to breathe the fresh nature that surrounds Grace Farms. It was surprising to find that such a relaxing environment had the agenda of a human rights activist, international lawyer, world renowned architect, and environmentalist. Grace farms provided a truly incredible depth of concept and community that was infused at each level.

We were tired from a long day in the sun at Kykuit (Rockefeller Mansion) and decided to get coffee first. Having coffee and cookies in the common room is a must! Sitting here with our coffee and treats in silence is where the serenity of the project suddenly hit us. Everything about the space oozed with tranquility, and the mellow jazz playing in the background was like the cherry on top of a delicious cake.

As an architect I can understand the immense effort that goes into forming 203 unique slabs of custom thermal glass panels that enclose each of the five volumes. Even now I am amazed with the amount of custom glass used in this project. Being there was worth every second of my time. The space enclosed within the custom curved glass are perfectly designed to be symmetrical and minimal while the walls curve around you. The even rhythm of ceiling fixtures make the sprinklers and speakers near invisible. The continuous wood ceiling and concrete floor throughout is somehow comforting.

We decided to go to the top of the hill next, the sanctuary. Perched at the highest point of the hill, the sanctuary begins with faith. The Grace Farms Foundation hosts events every Sunday and welcomes members of all faith and preaches community, tolerance, and support. It was here that we found a “quiet room” that was acoustically isolated from the space yet visible through its own glass encasement. Perfect for entertaining children, I hung out in there for a while.. The stillness led me to wonder how the air temperature was so comfortable with no mechanical noises.  The receptionist later informed us that the space is heated and cooled using the water tables below the ground. Wow, was I in disbelief! A geothermal system working this smoothly and quietly?!? I want in. I wonder how much this would costs to install in my house. Did you know that just a few feet down, the earth is a constant temperature all year round? Water is perfect for maintaining its temperature, making it a great component for heating and cooling spaces.  After taking a few team shots, it was time to move on.

Next stop was the library. The best part about the library was that they devoted at least a quarter of their stock to art and architecture. Grace Farms Foundation has good taste if we go by those books. This experience has been extremely educational and motivating. Grace Farms is the ordinary persons’ connection to the community and the struggles that we share.

Going further downstream to the more informal areas, the wood clad ceiling begins to lower and snake around more intensely, enclosing a barbecue area for picnics and an athletic field.

The structures are composed of clean lines of glulam beams from British Columbia, that appear to be floating (another awesome detail that I hope to mimic in a project ). The discrete yet unique works of art that are spread throughout the river are really a nice touch. My favorite were the seating arrangements at the base of the hill, where we rested to enjoy the end of our hike before heading off to grab dinner.

We were skeptical of this trip in the beginning because it all seemed so simple. In the end the ethereal serenity of this ‘River Walk’ was the perfect minimal ending to our history packed office trip.