Building at Grace Farms . New Canaan

SANAA . OLIN . + Grace Farms . architectura week

Nestled into the rolling landscape of Grace Farms, amid meadows, woods, wetlands and lakes that will be conserved in perpetuity, the SANAA design begins on a knoll and then flows and meanders down the long, gentle slope 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 some 10 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, presenting no barriers but rather inviting people to engage with the expansive natural surroundings. The River, which winds through a little more than 1 acre of the 75-acre Grace Farms, will be built by the Foundation at an estimated cost of $50-60 million.
At its uppermost point, the River begins with a space that will be used as a sanctuary for Grace Community Church, which will hold services on Sundays. Other ancillary areas in the River will accommodate a library, spaces for children, a dining room and a gymnasium, as well as meeting space that can also be used by not-for-profit service organizations. Individuals associated with Grace Community Church established Grace Farms Foundation in 2009 as an independent organization, with the aim of benefiting the New Canaan community.

Grace Farms Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable organization in New Canaan, Connecticut, submitted proposed designs to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission for a new building by the architecture firm SANAA. If approved by the commission, the building, known as the River, will be constructed on a sliver of the 75-acre Grace Farms property that the Foundation is preserving for the community as a permanent offering of open space.

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