If you’re planning a trip to New York or New England, we highly recommend a visit to the River building. This extraordinarily sinuous piece of architecture flows through Grace Farms, in New Canaan, Connecticut. It was designed by SANAA, a Tokyo-based architectural firm and winners of the 2010 Pritzker Prize, with landscape design by Philadelphia and LA-based studio, OLIN. Unsurprisingly, after its completion in 2015, the building won multiple awards for its design and social mission, including the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) 2014-2015.
The structure was designed not to feel like a building at all, starting on high ground and flowing in curves down the gentle incline, forming pond-like spaces. The single, long roof floats above the ground as it snakes across it, blending into the surrounding woodlands, wetlands and meadows. Walls are curved glass, and an aluminum roof reflects the sun and sky.
The architecture is sublime and worth visiting just to explore, but Grace Farms Foundation also has an admirable goal. Created to foster good in the world, the Foundation’s mission is to provide “a peaceful respite and porous platform to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith.” As such, the organization supports initiatives in the areas of nature, arts, justice, community and faith, encouraging local and global participation. Grace Farms is its platform, serving as a welcoming space where individuals, non-profits and government entities can come together for the common good.
The River is a multipurpose building where visitors can enhance their experience of (and be inspired by) nature through all five senses. It holds a 700-seat amphitheater, a library, a tea pavilion and a sunken courtyard, but it also showcases permanent contemporary art installations by such well-known international figures as Olafur Eliasson, Beatriz Milhazes and Susan Philipsz.
In August, Grace Farms received LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for sustainability, water efficiency, environmental quality and innovation.
“Our goal with the River is to make the architecture become part of the landscape,” says Sharon Prince of the Grace Farms Foundation. “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.”