The first thing I notice at Grace Farms is that nobody is looking down at their phone. Instead, people are engaged – with each other and with this place – and the pace is slow. A man stands at the edge of the path looking at the trees. A couple talks quietly on a bench while children roll down a hill, giddy with the feeling of speed and being out of control. A woman sits with her eyes closed, face in the sun, hands wrapped around a steaming mug. This is Grace Farms.
Located in New Canaan, Connecticut, this 80-acre project began with a desire to save the land – a former equestrian facility – from subdivision. A group of local families got together and purchased the first 48 acres in 2007. McMansion invasion averted.
Two years later, the families formed Grace Farms Foundation on the idea that space can communicate values and a way of being. Additional acreage was purchased, and in 2010 the Foundation selected Tokyo-based architectural firm SANAA to design a structure to serve as the centerpiece of this environment where people can pause and reflect.
Known as the River, the building follows the grade – and the grace – of the landscape, similar to how water might flow. Sheltered by one long continuous roof are five buildings, one for each of the Foundation’s initiatives: Nature, The Arts, Justice, Community and Faith. The experience of the space is a mix of being indoors and out, feeling sheltered and exposed, finding solitude and community.
On this visit, I come seeking quiet and time alone but end up discussing the architecture, specifically the low-iron glass used for its clarity, with a group of architects, which leads to a discussion about Swan Chairs while having tea in the Pavilion. I came seeking one thing and found another, and that’s the magic of Grace Farms.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Admission is free and visitors are invited to participate in nature walks, tea services, readings, lectures, community dinners, even pick-up basketball games, held on the “court” of the Justice building. All events – including the contemplative art project The Quiet Circus: Landscape Game, created by artists David Brick and Maiko Matsushima – can be found at gracefarms.org/calendar.
WHILE IN NEW CANAAN
Exhibition at Carriage Barn Arts Center through November 26:
New Canaan Modern Architects: 50 Years of Achievement 1947–1997
New Canaan Library Fall Book Sale: November 17–20.
The Glass House: Tours of Philip Johnson’s private residence are available through November 30.