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New Place, Old Need

May 14, 2017


I visited Grace Church/Grace Farm in New Canaan. It was with AIA Connecticut. It was a celebration of architecture. It was disturbing because it was perfectly us: the noble, the hypocritical, the beautiful, the failed. It tries as hard as any building I have ever seen to be Universal. To embrace Connection, Spirituality, Hope, Openness. It was based on 5 Principals. It was designed by Asian Artist-Architects, it was built by a world class builder who owns Katharine Hepburn’s home, and the local architect is a huge NYC firm trying its best to make the construction disappear to let these abstractions be overwhelming.

But it was more than sculpture in the landscape.

Its more than High Modern expression:

It intends to be a “community place”

It intends to be a place of connection: between people thru the building

The connection is between the viewer directly to the 30 acre rolling hillscape:


The stated goal is “anyone” “anytime” can come:


But, there was a guarded gate. My driver’s license was necessary to enter. It was having its gutters, yankee gutters, cleaned:


Its structure was so simple some of the columns were solid steel:


It is Perfectly Green but has glass that was made in 3 factories, sequentially all over the globe:


Long span beams had to be shipped via the Panama Canal from Washington State, because, well, local lumber did not look right and was too long to fit on the roads:


It has terrible thermal efficiency – but 59 Geothermal Wells. It has a glued white gravel skirt to form a nice edge to the grass. It cost $75,000,000. At least.

Just like cathedrals and Meeting Houses this place embodied a love and fear of God in a man-built expression: often using a huge portion beyond what it took its builders to survive, Grace is as hard a thing to be Perfect as any church: its white in a muddy/green landscape. Its curves are formed in a construction system that makes its essence very expensive. It has no breaks in shape, it flows on the hills: again making cost a huge dump of value;

Unlike the Meeting House – also a place of community, Grace Farms is a powerful ooze of frozen flow: it may frame, but it leaves nature in the echo of its powerful attempt to capture movement and choreograph humans to its wake.

It is in a land that is losing church attendance. Worshippers are leaving religion. This is the new religion. “Grace”. but it is not an unmerited gift. One family earned hundreds of millions of dollars and wanted to give something greater than themselves to something greater than themselves. Just like those who built the cathedrals. I call that God.

Do they?

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