SANAA in New Canaan

Ethereal Tape


It would not be an exaggeration to classify the architectures of the world in accordance with the manner in which they relate with nature. Some dominate it, as does western architecture; others engage in dialogue with it, as does Asian architecture. Very very few merge with the environment as if they were prolongations of the terrain, the forest, or a body of water. One example is the latest building of the Japanese firm SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa): a linear pavilion raised in New Canaan (Connecticut) for Grace Farms Foundation.

Conceived – in the words of its president, Sharon Price – as a ‘gift’ to the community and a tribute “to art, faith, and justice,” the center contains civic spaces but its primary mission is to promote contemporary creativity through its splendid collection of works by the likes of Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Beatriz Milhazes.

But perhaps more important than the artworks exhibited between its highly subtle walls of glass is the building in itself: a delicate ribbon gently winding amid hillocks and trees, its sinuous flow evoking the current of a nearby river. The most striking element is a roof so light that it brings to mind the Serpentine Pavilion of 2009, also seeming to float over meager pillars though with a slightly heavier feel because of severe gutters placed at the far ends to collect the water of melted snow. The building nevertheless gives the impression of being lightweight and transparent, and harmonizes with the magnificent landscape without prejudice to its rare abstraction.

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