The River, Grace Farms
Nestled in the rolling landscape of Grace Farms, The River begins on a knoll and then flows down the long, gentle slope in a series of bends, forming pond-like spaces throughout its journey.
Af Kirsten Kiser
Named The River in reference to its ribbon-like roof, the building frames both public facilities and meandering walkways for Grace Farms, an 80-acre reserve of meadows, woods, wetlands, and ponds.
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 glass-wrapped volumes that form beneath the roof are remarkably transparent, inviting visitors to engage with the expansive natural surroundings.
The five glass-enclosed volumes can host a variety of activities and events while maintaining a constant awareness of the surrounding natural environment. These include the Sanctuary, a 700-person indoor amphitheater; the Library; Grace Farms’ offices; the Commons (a dining and living room); and the Pavilion, where visitors can learn about Grace Farms.
Located partially below-grade, the Court is a gymnasium/multi-purpose space with an adjoining media lab and a game room for recreation, youth activities, receptions and art performances.
The basic framing is composed of repeating units of glulam timber beams supported by columns; each beam is tilted to follow the slope of the site, and the distance between units changes slightly. The top layer of the roof is a rain screen of anodized aluminum panels, and the exterior walls are double-glazed panels.
Approximately 77 of the 80 acres of Grace Farms are being retained in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands, and ponds. The landscape architects, OLIN, have designed an environment that preserves and enhances the existing habitat for native flora and fauna while integrating the community garden, athletic fields and a playground designed by SANAA.
SANAA’s goal was to root the architecture of The River into the landscape without drawing attention to itself — or even feeling like a building — with the hope that users will more easily enjoy the beautiful environment and changing seasons via its meandering spatial experiences.
The River encloses over 56,000 square feet of space, and the covered exterior pathway is nearly 25,500 square feet. The River is approximately 150 feet wide at its widest point, 25 feet wide at its narrowest point, and varies in height from 10 feet to 14 feet. The building is approximately 1,400 feet long, but because of its switchbacks, it sits on an expanse of land that is half its length.