April 6, 2016
Recently, a team led by Union Studio was selected to design a new Education and Program Center for the historic Wright Locke Farm in Winchester, MA. This is not your average farm. The farmstead has been continually operating since 1638 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is nothing short of sublime, with hiking trails, ponds, wetlands and hilltop glades free for the public to enjoy. And the children! Wright Locke offers farm based educational programs for all ages.
In early 2016, the land adjacent to the farmstead was essentially ‘gifted’ to the Wright Locke Conservancy, expanding their property to 20 acres and enabling it to be protected in perpetuity. This gesture set the wheels in motion for the farm to plan a new facility accommodating gatherings of up to 100 people, a classroom for kids, a multi-purpose “innovation kitchen,” and a large dining room.
Earlier this month, Union Studio facilitated a design charrette with members of the Wright Locke Farm Staff and Board, selected stakeholders and the landscape architecture firm Stephen Stimson Associates.
The goal was to achieve consensus on the major decisions influencing conceptual design of the new building: programming needs, site design and connections, building orientation, etc. A morning session helped the team sort through everything from aesthetic vision to the shape of the tables in the event space.
The design team then retreated to a three-hour concept generation session, where architecture and landscape architecture were discussed. The team sketched out a conceptual site plan, building design and conceptual floor plans. Vignettes helped to illustrate possible approaches to the interior feel.
The building program began to take shape…
With careful balance of educational, event, administrative, circulation, and service space allocation.
Given the majesty of the site, views looking out of the building were a critical factor in site orientation and space layout.
The sloping site suggested two levels, with separate event spaces located on each level.
Windows in the event space will take advantage of farm views.
A vignette of the view from the entry shows a proposed small event space to the rear left and a view into the “educational kitchen” on the right.
From the entry, one has a clear view into the educational kitchen.
A large event space could feature elements such as a hearth and sliding farmhouse doors.
The orientation of the new building on the site takes advantage of existing infrastructure and views of the historic farm buildings, while blending with the site topography. It is important to stakeholders and designers that the building be elegant, contextual, and non-intrusive.
A site section shows the relationship of the land usage to the existing and proposed buildings.
The landscape design intonates a loose relationship between the farm landscape and the proposed building. It is important to the stakeholders and the design team that the “indoor/outdoor” relationship feels organic and flowing.
Next steps for the Education and Program Center Design include incorporating feedback from the charrette and refining design concepts. Overall, a properly facilitated charrette is a highly efficient and collaborative means of advancing the design process. Our day at the Wright Locke Farm generated a valuable exchange of ideas that will serve as the conceptual foundation moving forward. Stay tuned for more updates as concepts are refined!