After much anticipation Grace Farms in New Canaan recently opened to the public and I had the privilege of visiting this magnificent space. A must see for both nature and design lovers.
Grace Farms is all that it promises to be. And then some. Created by Japanese Pritzker winning SANAA architects, the main structure was designed to flow like a river as it courses over, around and through the multi-leveled terrain. Within its path are several glass buildings which house the sanctuary, a library, the commons (where one can enjoy a warm cup of coffee, cool beverage, light meal or sweet treat), a pavilion (offering tea service), and a court that sits almost completely below ground where children and adults can participate in volleyball and basketball games. The structures flow gracefully along 80 acres of open space where people of all ages can be one with nature, observe the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith. The grounds have a very spiritual and zen-like vibe to them. The post modern architecture reminiscent of Philip Johnson folds in to the landscape seamlessly. The glass serves almost solely as a protective barrier from the elements, as even inside the various buildings, one still experiences that deep connection to the vastness of the surrounding countryside. This northeast corner of New Canaan has a rich and diverse habitat, home to many varieties of animals and vegetation. The former horse farm has retained the original open beauty and topography and promises to keep the integrity of the land in tact offering up pristine meadows, wooded areas, wetlands and ponds to those who want to stroll among them.
Every once in a while I'm touched beyond words. Today was one of those days; I felt a sense of calm. A zen-like peace rushed over me like a giant wave. I live but 20 minutes away in Fairfield County and the landscape near my home, also resplendent with horse farms, seemed almost worlds away. As soon as I caught sight of the great riverlike architectural structure I'd read so much about I could feel the magnitude of its greatness - of the final product and of the vast undertaking it had been. Not at all imposing, but immediately important.
As I wandered up the hill I knew I was viewing an architectural masterpiece, it was as if I was partaking in an important moment of history. Visitors are encouraged to walk and wander and to sit and reflect with seating areas that abound both inside and out. Surely this is the place to come to melt the worries away. I meandered in and out of the buildings, winding around slowly - as if being pulled along on a lazy river - my camera clicking away. Outside the tea room, smooth round metal chairs resemble river rocks along the shore. All around me, I saw people of all ages enjoying the unseasonably warm but overcast weather. Young children delighted frolicking around outside while elders seemed to be as mesmerized as I was. The oversized chairs in the library offered a comfortable area for reading or quiet reflection. I immediately thought of returning one day soon with my laptop. I can't imagine a more inspiring place to sit down and write!
The paddocks, a throwback to the original horse farm, athletic fields and numerous areas are there for us to enjoy. The West Barn offers up artist installations and houses an art room for the budding artist for a mere $5 per child. In the rear of the building a theater offers up free matinees every Saturday. Tai Chi lessons are available for seniors and numerous lectures are scheduled to be offered. Truly a family friendly community, Grace Farms offers cross country skiing and ice skates for those who have their own equipment. Snow shoe rentals are available for snow shoeing on premises. Children can rent free of charge, and adults for just $5. There is no charge to explore the property and visit the buildings.
I'm eager to return soon to see the property covered by a thick white blanket of snow, and perhaps try my hand at snow shoeing. I can't wait to see it in springtime, bursting with pastel fireworks. And again in summer dressed in a rich emerald green.
On March 5th, from 10-3pm A Winter Outing at Grace Farms will take place. This will include a line-up of community programs inspired by the season. There will be presentations from Olympic athletes, nature and wildlife tours and snow tubing. Visit their website for more information, http://www.gracefarms.org/
Coming from out of State? The historic Roger Sherman Inn is just minutes away as is downtown New Canaan which offers a wealth in dining and shopping experiences. Bedford Corners, in Bedford NY is also minutes away with its charming antique and bookstore and the renown Bedford Post Inn.
They say that the best things in life are free. It's certainly true here at Grace Farms.