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Grace Farms Draws Praise
Stamford Advocate

By Martin B. Cassidy.

 

Sunlight glinted off the steel roof and glass exteriors of the new River Building as curious residents, architects and others came to see the modernist structure off of Route 123.


After a hard rain swept through that morning, the assembled at Grace Farms entered the long-awaited glass enclosed building and surrounding property at a public unveiling Oct. 9.


“I think it is just incredible,” New Canaan architect Richard Bergmann said of the building.


In advance of an early afternoon dedication, Sharon Prince and architects Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima narrated an hour-plus tour that wended down corridors and paths linking the different structures of the glass-sided building called “The River.” It is an 83,000-square-foot building set on 75 acres of woodlands and landscaped areas.

 

The building, land and other facilities, owned by the Grace Farms Foundation, will be open for use six days a week by the Grace Farms Church and wider community. The new building cost roughly $65 million.


The event was part of a two-day-long celebration of the property’s public opening that included a benefit show by songwriter Aloe Blacc and choreography from the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which performed a work called “Promethean Fire.” Visitors were also invited to participate in a variety of art presentations and children’s craft activities.


Addressing a media-heavy crowd, Sharon Prince, president of the Grace Farms Foundation’s board of directors, said the building’s modernist see-through design was arrived at after extended collaboration since 2010 with Sejima and her acclaimed architectural firm SANAA of Tokyo on what kind of building would best maintain the land.


“We were so fascinated, but at the same time it was very difficult to find the solution about how to communicate with the beautiful landscape,” Sejiwa said.


“One of our interests in the project was how to explore the architecture together with the nature,” Nishizawa said. “We were always trying to think what kind of connection between architecture and nature can be made.”

 

Moving through the building starting in the uppermost sanctuary area, Prince said visitors walking through the building will progress from “more peaceful to more active” areas as they pass through the building.


The kickoff also included the unveiling of arts works commissioned for the building by five contemporary artists, including Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernandez and Susan Philipsz, which will remain on display.


“We’re trying to create a type B experience in a Type A world and to do that and create a peaceful respite. It is nature that really helps you settle down,” Prince said. “But we also wanted to have a place for a vibrant community.”