Every summer from 2011 to 2017, Keith Moskow and Robert Linn of Boston-based Moskow Linn Architects brought a group of seven-to-ten architecture students to Constable Farm, a 117-acre plot in the small riverside town of Norwich, Vermont, in order to build a new structure in just a week. The project was part of an intensive design-build studio they called Studio North. Partner Keith Moskow said that for him, the project was a chance for the class to “get out of the office and get dirty building.” He went on to say, “For many students this was their first time holding a hammer, even though in studios, they might be designing very large buildings.” Architectural education focuses on the theories and studio practice of design, use, implementation, restoration, and other principles of the field, but rarely does it engage with what it is actually like to build the buildings that students design. One of the interesting—and perhaps risky—aspects of the project was the lack of preplanning. Unlike the typical architecture project, builders have to “make decisions along the way” in a more old-school fashion. The building process itself was the design process. The Vermont projects were built from a standard kit of parts—2-by-4 planks, metal fasteners, fiberglass sheets, and timber collected on-site. However, each structure was surprisingly different, showing the wide range of projects made possible from relatively simple means. When discussing the challenges and specificities of building in rural areas, Moskow noted that “the challenges aren’t different [from building in suburban or urban locales]; it’s about trying to adapt your structure to the specific environment it’s in.” While building on this Vermont property may have run its course—lest these structures overrun it—Moskow and Linn hope that this isn’t the end of the project or working with students, both of which they deeply enjoy. Plans are in the works for the next iteration of Studio North to get started soon. Chicken Chapel The inaugural 2011 project was the Chicken Chapel, a translucent fiberglass-wrapped chicken coop with maple sapling branches as cladding and an elegant, elliptical nesting box within. Rolling Pig Pen Students built a mobile pig pen with an expressive winged roof in the project's second year. The rolling construction of the pen allows it to move across the property, permitting the cultivation and fertilization of different areas by the pigs, a very natural and old-school solution to farming and growing. Birch Pavilion A birch pavilion was built in 2013, the program’s third year. The minimal structure is composed of a platform with walls of spaced birch trees, harvested on-site. The pavilion is set on a hill in the midst of a birch forest, offering expansive views of the surrounding landscape, including nearby Mount Ascutney. It has been used for family gatherings, memorial services, and even the occasional yoga class. Sugar Shack Participants constructed a self-cannibalizing sugar shack of sorts in 2014. The shack’s walls were built out of logs from timber felled on the property, which can be re-used as kindling and replaced with newly cut logs. Woodland Retreat Moskow, Linn, and the students built a woodland retreat in 2015, a tripartite structure for “glamping.” There are two timber structures with fiberglass steeples. One is a multilevel sleeping structure, and the other is an open-air space with a specially constructed table and chairs. In between is a gathering area with a deck, firepit, and bench. Viewing Structure The group built one of their more visually audacious projects—a finned viewing structure—in 2016. The structure is essentially an inhabitable trailer-mounted camera, with a pinhole on one side and a more open space that serves as the entryway on the other. The spines of the structure were partly a happy accident of the design-build process. Initial strapping that was meant to come down was so striking that, rather than remove it, the Studio North participants opted to repeat it across the structure for visual effect. Mobile Sauna The last project, completed in 2017, was a mobile sauna comprising two rooms: one a cedar box with a wood-fired boiler, the other a translucent fiberglass-wrapped cool-down space. The sauna is putting its wheels to use, roaming from location to location and providing much-needed relaxation.
Posts tagged with "Vermont":
Plans for a utopian city based around the Mormon design principles of Joseph Smith have been scuttled by their Salt Lake City-based developer, after the National Trust for Historic Preservation put out a warning about the project. The sprawling sustainable city first made waves in 2016, when it was revealed that Utah millionaire David Hall had already purchased 900 acres in Vermont’s rural White River Valley through his nonprofit NewVistas Foundation. Those 900 acres were part of a larger plan to collect 5,000 acres across the four towns of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge, and carve out a walkable, mixed-use urban development for 15,000 to 20,000 people. Hall claims that the project isn’t religious, just an experiment in ecologically sensitive urban design (despite its location near the birthplace of Joseph Smith) and that the LDS isn’t involved in any way. Still, NewVistas' plan for the town hewed closely to Smith’s 1833 City of Zion plan; each square city block would be arranged in a rectangular grid along wide streets with prescribed setbacks on half-acre lots. NewVistas wanted to combine Smith’s 19th century ideas with 21st century technology and New Urbanist principles. The city would have been composed of smaller villages of 160 to 210 people each on 960 half-acre lots, all centered around common areas, with the villages eventually coming together to form an urban conglomeration that could be scaled up to house millions. The trippiest of Hall’s ideas? In a Bloomberg interview, Hall claimed that residents would live in 200-square-foot apartments, with Roomba-like robots that would shuffle furniture around when needed to create more space. Hall had picked up a total of 1,500 acres in Vermont since his purchases first went public. Now, after the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the four towns and surrounding valley under “Watch Status” on their annual list of the 11 most endangered historical sites, Hall has dropped his plans. “The charming village centers and idyllic surrounding farms and forests in four historic towns,” reads the Trust’s statement, “would be permanently altered by a development proposal calling for construction of a new planned community in this rural part of Vermont.” The move was abrupt, coming only one day after the Trust’s designation on June 26. Despite being met with fierce local resistance in the past, Hall directly cited the Trust’s mention and has now placed his land holdings up for sale. All 1,500 acres are reportedly being sold as one parcel to prevent overdevelopment in the future, though the plots are not all contiguous. Fans and aspiring utopians shouldn’t be discouraged. Hall has already dropped $100 million on kickstarting a chain of global NewVistas, and a prototype community in Provo, Utah, close to Brigham Young University, is still on track.
Vermont lost one of its agrarian and architectural landmarks this weekend when the historic Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farms was destroyed by fire. The 1891 landmark at 989 South Gate Road in Shelburne was a key part of the Shelburne Farms complex designed by the noted architect R. H. Robertson. According to a message posted on the Shelburne Farms website by president Alec Webb, the cause of fire most likely was lightning from an early morning storm on Sunday. The building burned to the ground. “This is an incredibly sad loss to the historic fabric of this place,” Webb wrote. Shelburne Farms is a non-profit educational organization located on a tract formerly owned by the Webb family. Its campus is a 1,400-acre working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark. Shelburne Farms acquired the Old Dairy Barn, the nearby Breeding Barn, and surrounding land in 1994 from the adjacent Shelburne Museum, according to its website. “The Barn has been structurally stabilized with a new roof, foundation, and beams,” the site states. Robert Henderson Robertson (1849-1919) was born in Philadelphia and designed numerous houses, institutional buildings, and churches, many in partnership with William Appleton Potter. His work included summer cottages in Newport, Rhode Island, campus buildings at Brown and Princeton, and tall buildings in New York City. His 1899 Park Row Building at 15 Park Row, for August Belmont, briefly held the title of being the world’s tallest building. Other Robertson commissions include: the Brown University Library; Witherspoon Hall at Princeton University; Alpha Kappa Lodge at Williams College, the Commodore Charles H. Baldwin House in Newport; the American Tract Society Building at 150 Nassau Street in New York; Engine Company 55 firehouse at 363 Broome Street in New York, and the main lodge at Camp Santanoni, a national landmark near Newcomb, New York. Shelburne Farms, his most comprehensive farm complex, includes Shelburne House, the Breeding Barn, the Farm Barn, and the Coach Barn. He also designed the Shelburne Railroad Station. Megan Camp, vice president and program director of Shelburne Farms, told the Burlington Free Press that the Old Dairy Barn was being used to store lumber and Shelburne Farms planned to renovate it to house educational programs. “Losing one of these buildings is like losing a family member,” Camp was quoted as saying. “You don’t replace a building like this.” Webb said in his message that all activities and programs at Shelburne Farms will continue as usual except for a historic barns tour on Monday, which was canceled. “We are very fortunate and grateful that no animals or people were harmed in the fire,” he wrote. “It will take a while to assess the full impacts of the loss of this amazing building.” For more on the blaze, as well as images of the fire itself, see this Burlington Free Press article (page may have advertisements with noise).
Historically, upstate New York and New England were incubators of utopian settlements: The Oneida Community practiced complex marriage and mutual criticism in a mansion outside Syracuse, and Transcendentalist Fruitlanders ate vegan and took purifying cold showers on a farm in Harvard, Massachusetts. Now, near the birthplace of Mormonism, a Salt Lake City–based entrepreneur is planning a Vermont settlement for up to one million people guided by the divine design vision of Joseph Smith but driven by the ecological anxieties of our times. Yes, that Joseph Smith. In the Plat of the City of Zion, the founder of Mormonism laid out a plan for the ideal community that's a mashup between a classic New England village and Euclidian New York or Philadelphia: Instead of living on rambling homesteads, Mormons should live in gridded, nucleated settlements of 15,000 to 20,000, with wide streets and half-acre lots centered around the Church and public buildings. Farms were relegated to the outskirts of town. (For real-life reference, the original plan of Salt Lake City reflects Smith's mandates, although the building lots were much larger.) Bringing the vision back East, David Hall's NewVistas Foundation has purchased almost 900 acres across four Vermont towns since last October for a total of $3,600,000, the Daily UV reports. Hall, a scientist and engineer, intends to purchase up to 5,000 acres of land to build a "network of environmentally and socially sustainable villages, communities, and megalopolises. [The settlement] combines sustainability with massive scalability to achieve a comprehensive approach to human development.” The NewVistas Foundation overlays contemporary, New Urbanist-y planning vernacular onto Smith's 19th century principles. The foundation describes their community as a "completely walkable mixed-use urban development" for 15,000 to 20,000 people in a series of villages centered around a commons. One village for 160 to 210 people is comprised of 960 half-acre buildable lots, each (per Smith's vision) with a garden and patio. Agriculture and industry sit outside the residential and downtown portion of the 2.88-square-mile settlement to keep the enterprise self-sustaining. Ultimately, the villages would join forces like Legos to create a dense urban environment for up to one million inhabitants. Hall argues that the proposed settlement isn't a religious project, but a proof-of-concept for creating an environmentally conscious, balanced community that could be a model for other settlements in a world threatened by global warming and consequent ecological disasters. The LDS, Hall maintains, isn't involved in the project. Considering a move? The gallery above features renderings of the NewVistas settlement and takes viewers through proposed step-by-step urban agglomeration, while the NewVistas Foundation website dives deep into housing typologies and infrastructure systems.
Students enrolled in a sustainable design-build course at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont closed out 2010 by building their own house - a rather tiny house. Covering a mere 96 square feet, the structure cost only $20 a foot for a total price tag well under $2,000. No small feat for a bespoke building, especially considering this tiny house has gone green in a big way. All materials on the house were either reclaimed or locally sourced including two-inch blueboard and locally collected sheep wool insulation. Doors, windows, and woodwork were recycled and salvaged instead of using new materials. The structure has been designed to collect rainwater from its sloping roof and later this year will be outfitted with solar cells allowing for a completely off-grid lifestyle. Later, the house will be put on the market and sold. While living in a sub-100-square-foot space might seem cramped, students incorporated a sloping back wall for a more roomy interior. A student-designed lofted area and interior furnishings help to maximize the small space.
Residents of Brattleboro, Vermont want a say in what happens to a strip of waterfront and they're voting with... stickers. Visitors to Renewing the Riverfront at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center can post a small round sticker next to their favorite proposals, which line the walls of the gallery. Just in case they don't find one they like, there are plenty of blank note cards on hand where a resident can throw his or her own idea into the mix. This bottom-up community planning effort comes courtesy of a workshop run by The Center for Creative Solutions at Marlboro College Graduate School that gathered together professionals from different disciplines to familiarize themselves with the area and the community before brainstorming potential plans. The group then mounted the interactive exhibit that has enabled townspeople to have a more active say in the visioning and planning process. Whether Brattleboro officials choose to carry out one (or more) of the proposals that are part of Renewing the Riverfront is still unknown.
Who says local government never gets anything done fast? Last Monday the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) brought down the ailing Lake Champlain Bridge in less than ten seconds -- check out its lightning-fast disintegration captured on the video clip above. The 80-year old bridge connecting New York and Vermont had outlived its design life, and was shut down in October when an inspection discovered cracks growing in its concrete piers at an alarmingly fast rate. Last week's demolition was performed by New York's "blasting subcontractor," Advanced Explosives Demolition, who laced the bridge with 500 explosive charges that sliced through the steel span at 17,000 feet per second. The bridge's remains will be retrieved from the lake by next spring. Meanwhile, NYSDOT and VTrans are already planning the Lake Champlain bridge's successor. A preliminary online public survey favored a Modified Network Tied Arch design like the one below: