Blackburn Architects is pleased to be a part of the improvement plans at the historic Saratoga Race Course. We are working with NYRA (New York Racing Association) to improve the backstretch area and its facilities to increase safety and efficiency for workers, riders, and horses. All of the proposed improvements for the frontside and backside at the track are outlined on NYRA’s website; the public is invited to provide comment and feedback. A community forum takes place at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Thursday, September 1 at 6:30 p.m. Renderings of the proposed work is on display at the City Center through September 2nd.
NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward says, “The projects we choose to undertake will not be determined unilaterally. We recognize that part of what makes Saratoga Race Course so special is its deep integration and embracement by the community. All of us at NYRA truly look forward to hearing from the public as we prepare to make essential and intelligent changes to bolster the fan experience and to secure the future of Saratoga.”
Please read more about the proposed improvements for the frontside and backstretch at Saratoga in the official press release.
We’ve had our fair share of Mother Nature in DC as of late. Last week brought a relatively mild yet rare 5.8 quake (and apparently those of us in the District could use a lesson in Earthquake 101, based upon our reaction). While I’m curious to know how horses in the area reacted to the scare, it wasn’t surprising to read articles about how the animals and critters at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park appeared to be the first to know.
Where were you during the earthquake? Did you know what it was? Were any of you riding? While I was stuck indoors that day, I remember that it was a particularly beautiful, temperate, and seemingly calm afternoon. I hope everyone and their four-legged friends did OK.
Three days later, it’s Friday afternoon in the District and, once again, the weather gives no impression that anything’s amiss. But this time we know better. Weather forecasters are in overdrive, studying the direction and predicting the trail of Hurricane Irene. The storm threatens most of the East Coast, with several states, including our neighbors Maryland and Virginia, issuing a state of emergency. I can only hope that those of you that are or will be affected by Hurricane Irene take these warnings very seriously and are able to bring yourself and your family (and horses) to safer ground or have taken all precautions.
If you or your horses have been affected by this onslaught of extreme weather, please let us know how you are doing and if there’s anything those of us who are concerned can do to help. The Florida Horse website has a helpful article on how to prepare yourself and your horses for the worst. Here’s another one from the Virginia Horse Council.
Read Brooke Lange’s article about Blackburn’s adaptive reuse of an 1800s bank barn into a “party barn” in the July 2011 issue of Cowboys & Indians Magazine.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’ve been practicing architecture for over 30 years. As a consequence of all that time, I’ve had the opportunity to design all types of facilities, from garages and additions to horse barns to new and renovated residences. Like many architects, I enjoy working with all types of clients and building types, as I’m always eager to confront a new design challenge. So I thought I’d share a residential project that follows the same ideals I always pursue: design that balances the demands of the site with the needs of the owner.
The Grant Residence and artist studio, located on a historic family estate in Ware Neck, Virginia, was designed to fit in the historic architectural context of the pre-Revolutionary War era property. The estate includes an original home, Lowland Cottage, which was built in 1670 and is listed as a registered historic landmark.
The original home, Lowland Cottage, remains on-site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new artist studio and main house, both designed by Blackburn Architects, were built around stringent wetland requirements, yet they still take advantage of the scenic panoramic river views on three sides of the site.
Both structures feature hardwood floors and French doors throughout, building on the historic context of the Lowland Cottage and other structures on the Ware Neck peninsula. French doors in the main residence lead out to a spacious screened porch with ceiling fans, accessible through the kitchen, living room, and dining room.
An 18’ by 64’ screened porch serves as a welcoming exterior room that stretches the full width of the west side of the house with 180-degree panoramic views of the beautiful sunsets across the Ware River. The room was designed to be usable in all seasons with passive solar heating in the winter, and cooling river breezes in the summer.
The second floor occupies space within the roof using a series of dormers and gables to provide head room for three bedrooms while the master bedroom is on the main floor. Built-in china cabinets enhance the contemporary design of the interior while modern lighting focuses attention on the highlights of each specific room. The lighting is adjustable for showcasing artwork, including that of the artist-owner.
The artist studio complements the cottage-style of the main residence and the original Lowland Cottage. Both buildings were designed to comply with the requirements of the Historic Review Commission.
This private equestrian facility includes a 14-stall barn, three-bedroom staff residence, and a service wing for hay, bedding, and equipment storage. Designed in a French Colonial style indigenous to the South, the barn and residence feature coral stone water tables, stucco wall finishes, and barrel tile roofs. The generous use of dormers provides abundant natural light to the barn stalls and aisles and to the second floor of the residence. This project was featured in Elle Decor magazine.
Program 14-stall stable and three-bedroom staff residence
Beth Herman’s article about the renovations at Sagamore Farm is published in today’s DCmud. I get a huge smile on my face just thinking about Sagamore and hope you do too after reading the story. The farm is a Maryland landmark and I am grateful that Blackburn has been trusted to contribute to the farm’s storied history.
As a kid in Tennessee, I grew up around horses, though I had no interest in properly riding them. That I left to my twin sister, who kept her Tennessee Walker named Dixie in a neighbor’s barn. For me, playing in the barn’s loft for days on end in the summer was much more appealing.
I left Tennessee for Clemson University (B.A. Architecture, 1969), where I developed an interest in designing buildings inspired by context, environment, and function: I became a student of the philosophy that “form follows function.” There was no doubt in my mind that I had left horses and the barn behind. After all, I never aspired to be an equestrian architect. I was a student of urban design. Ironically, over 25 years later, I earn a living designing equestrian facilities across the country. That is because a single interview changed my life.
Following graduate school (Washington University in St. Louis, M.A. in Urban Design, 1973), I relocated to Washington, D.C. in pursuit of its urban and robust economy as a place to possibly support a future architectural practice. My former colleague, Robbie Smith, and I began “moonlighting” on small side projects together and decided to create our own firm. As young architects, we’d happily take any project we could get our hands on. So, when Robbie received a phone call from a friend in the summer of 1983 about a fairly large potential horse project in Upperville, Virginia, we jumped. Forget that we had never designed a horse farm, or, for that matter, any other building of size of significance on our own. We had nothing to lose.
Preparation began for the big interview. We learned that the owner, Robert H. Smith (no relation to my partner, Robbie Smith), selected the renowned landscape architect Morgan Wheelock of Boston to plan the farm. Together, the owner and Wheelock sought an architect to design the farm structures to fit within the well-known Upperville and Middleburg, Virginia context.
Typically, during an interview you review your firm’s portfolio of completed projects with the potential client. This was not an option for Robbie and me — we’d have to approach this interview differently. Since Robbie was from Middleburg, he was familiar with the area’s building types. He spent a few days photographing various buildings in the area — forms, materials, and shapes — that represented Middleburg or Upperville in any way. Barns were certainly photographed, but we also considered residences, commercial structures, and other miscellaneous structures relevant. With plenty of images to inspire us, we selected a number of key examples. Many of these buildings were perhaps a hundred years old and probably weren’t designed by an architect. However, we felt they strongly represented the area. We took the photographs and projected the slides on the wall of our small office, traced over them, and transferred the images to illustration boards to serve as our “portfolio” presentation.
I’m not aware of what the other interviewing firms presented, but ours did not include a single building we designed or were designed by any architect, for that matter. Our presentation documented the context of the area in a series of hand-drawn sketches — but, at least, if the owner’s farm were to “fit” into the context, these were the shapes, forms, materials, and scale they should have.
We were hired immediately. Suddenly, we found ourselves with seven buildings to design with no staff in an unfurnished office space in a third-floor walkup in Georgetown — and we weren’t about to complain. We were embarking on a project that would change our lives.
Our client, Robert H. Smith, was a very successful developer in the Washington, D.C. area. While he had owned thoroughbred horses for several years, he stabled them at other farms or the track. Now he was ready to start a thoroughbred breeding operation, having acquired approximately 400 acres in Upperville, adjacent to the famous Rokeby Farm (owned by Paul Mellon) on one side and Route 50 on the other. Also included within the property were the grounds to the Upperville Horse Show, the oldest functioning horse show grounds in the United States.
Morgan Wheelock, the landscape architect, brought a background in designing horse farms to the project: with it, his theory that barn design, as well as the farm layout, should be driven by a paramount concern for the health and safety of the horse. The way the building is viewed and placed in the landscape, Wheelock believes, is as important as the design of the building itself. That’s because both the farm layout and the barn design impact the health and safety of the horse; concerns possibly even more apparent when operating a breeding facility for thoroughbreds.
Barns are often perceived as dark, dusty, and uninviting buildings. However, it’s also widely understood among equestrians that the best environment for a horse beyond the great outdoors is an environment that inspires just that. Wheelock bridged these inconsistencies with a design theory that focused on creating natural light and ventilation within the barn. It was a revelation. While the concepts Wheelock professed were simple, they worked — and beautifully — at our first barns at Heronwood Farm.
I wanted to repost this previous blog entry because the July 2011 issue of Cowboy & Indians Magazine features this party barn adaptive-reuse project. You can also read about the bank barn project online. We are thrilled to be a part of this esteemed publication and hope you can pick up a copy and let us know what you think.
With all of the depressing economic news right now, I think practicing a little “escapism” is in order. So I’d like to talk about something that’s not exactly practical in the traditional sense, but is all around fun. What am I getting at? Party barns.
“Party barns,” are becoming more popular by the day. For the uninitiated, a party barn is the result of transforming an old, battered and bruised barn into something very un-barn-like in use but still very much “barn-like.” It can be in the form of a guesthouse, an entertaining area, or an in-law suite—pretty much wherever your imagination leads you. We’ve even had clients approach us with opportunities to “save” old barns to become performing arts centers, bed and breakfast accommodations, restaurants, and more.
The opportunities are limitless, but the idea is the same: take something old and readapt it toward a new use. This type of work, called “adaptive reuse,” can occur in forms beyond barns, but let’s stick with just party barns for now.
One barn that turned out particularly well for its owners, dubbed the “Bank Barn,” is located in Leesburg, Virginia. The original structure dates back to the 1800s and was in such bad shape there were gaping holes in the walls. Much of the wood was rotten and the whole barn sagged. Despite its poor conditions, the barn was clearly a beauty and well worth being salvaged—something the owners innately recognized—and I was lucky enough to help.
To me, the best part of a project like this is being able to watch the barn undergo such a significant transformation. Currently, we have a project in Ohio for a family who seek to readapt a German-style bank barn that fell into serious decay into a private family entertaining space. The owners can’t wait to host their next Thanksgiving dinner in the barn.
I thought it might be interesting for you to “watch” the barn’s progress over the next few months. I’ll post photos of the “before” look of the barn as well as some photos throughout the construction process. In the meantime, here are a few of the Bank Barn—both “before” and “after.” While this type of project may not be something many can do right now, you may look at an old structure sitting on your property just a little differently—and hopefully think twice before tearing it down.
Blackburn Architects is so grateful to be a part of Kevin Plank’s dream to revitalize the horse racing industry in Maryland through his work at Sagamore Farm in Glyndon. We hope you’ll enjoy these articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times about Mr. Plank’s impressive ambitions for the historic farm and to elevate Maryland’s racing industry clout. We believe that if anyone can do it, it’s Mr. Plank. Congratulations to the whole team at Sagamore Farm, whose All Mettle won Pimlico’s $30,000 maiden special weight race in only her second career start!
Blackburn Architects is grateful to be a part of Kevin Plank’s dream to revitalize the horse racing industry in Maryland through his work at Sagamore Farm in Glyndon. We hope you’ll enjoy these articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post about Mr. Plank’s impressive ambitions for the historic farm and to elevate Maryland’s racing industry clout. We believe that if anyone can do it, it’s Mr. Plank. Congratulations to the whole team at Sagamore Farm, whose All Mettle won Pimlico’s $30,000 maiden special weight race in only her second career start!