Heirloom Farm Studio, designed by Bushman Dreyfus Architects, is a paradox.
On one hand, it’s the ideal home in the popular imagination. It’s an American saltbox you can find standing like a sentinel on the banks of a brackish inlet from Bar Harbor to Sausalito to Bainbridge Island. It’s what you might sketch in a game of charades to assuredly win the round. It’s a Monopoly house on Baltic Avenue with four sides and a pitched roof.
On the other hand, its form reflects architecture’s longest standing and deep-seated archetypes that people write term papers about—the allegorical primitive hut, introduced by Vitruvius and expanded by Marc-Antoine Laugier and representing the moment when mere shelter became intentional architecture eons ago. That hut—primitive or not—is the alpha and the omega of architecture’s theory.
This poplar-clad studio—simple or not—is the expression of a few colliding contexts.
The first was the program. Bushman Dreyfus principal-in-charge, Jeff Dreyfus, says the clients—a developer and artist husband and wife team, who split their time between Charlottesville and New York—wanted an empty black box to make art without constraints, which is what he gave them. It might not be pure black, but the cabin’s poplar siding has been stained, as well as strengthened to prevent warping through a thermal modification process trademarked by Cambia by NFP, a Kingston, New Hampshire company that offers alternatives to tropical hardwoods or petrochemical-based products. The clients also wanted a working studio complete with utility sink and poured concrete floor that could accommodate large sculptures, as well as adequate lighting for pastels and mixed-media pieces.
The second context was the studio’s place in a sequence of buildings that Bushman Dreyfus had been working on for the client, starting with an 18th century cottage cosseting a 17th century log cabin they’d begun renovating in 2014 and ending with a theoretical main house they hadn’t even conceived yet at the time of the studio’s design, but is now under construction.
“When we planned the studio, we had to think about how it would fit into a view for a potential home and we had to think about not intruding on the cottage,” says Dreyfus who, along with the studio’s lead designer Aga Saulle, took into account the third bit of context—the terms of the 33-acre property within a 2,300-acre eco-development called Bundoran Farm, which limits the location and size of building sites.
Initially, the clients asked for a black box, according to Dreyfus, which suggested a more modern cube in the landscape with a flat roof—more Marcel Breuer or Le Corbusier than Laugier. But at a certain point, he says, “we felt differently about what this could be because of the context of the cabin we’d just renovated. This studio shouldn’t have a flat roof—it needed a real roof, it needed a silhouette, it needed a profile—and it needed to be elemental.”
In 2022, AIA Virginia awarded Heirloom Farm Studio an Award of Honor, the highest recognition for an architectural project, based on what the jury called “design decisions [that] are focused and disciplined, resulting in something simultaneously abstract and familiar.”
Maybe this studio isn’t an unresolvable paradox, after all, but a perfectly solved puzzle: revealing what makes elemental things so familiar, and familiar things so elemental.
William Richards is a writer and the Editorial Director of Team Three, an editorial and creative consultancy based in Washington, DC.
Architecture is an art form that has always been subject to evolution, constantly adapting to the changing needs of society. At Hanbury, we believe that the greatest creative evolution is born from unrelenting experimentation. As the design landscape continues to evolve, we have taken a step back to reflect and ask ourselves some fundamental questions: Who are we? Do we experiment enough? And by that metric, are we evolving enough? Through honest introspection emerged the desire to push beyond the ordinary boundaries of our industry and embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth. Our foray into the unknown marks a new chapter in our story, marked by exploration of new ideas, designs, and passions.
At the center of this new chapter lies a dynamic entity, one that challenges our own preconceived notions through an embracement of untethered creativity. The fuel? Orange Juice, a vibrant punch of energy that powers the team’s relentless pursuit of fresh perspectives. This creative collective set out to create something reflective of their own internal passions and interests that extend beyond architecture’s conventional field-of-view. From film and fashion, to set design and video games, the team draws inspiration from a variety of influences, resulting in designs that are both practical and functional, yet flavorful, thought-provoking, and visually stunning.
Our focus at Hanbury remains on creating designs that we can be proud of. It’s not about following the latest trends like Artificial Intelligence or coding, but rather is representative of an introspective examination of our personal growth and evolution as designers.
As we pivot, grow, and juice more oranges, our warehouse continually expands, and so does our knowledge. With luck, maybe we will be successful in nudging respected professional practice and avant-garde art just ever so slightly closer to one another, aiding in an evolution of architectural expression.
So, where does this journey take Hanbury? We don’t have a clear answer, but we trust our abilities and instincts. So far, we’ve been invigorated by the results. From mulling over neon pink fuzzy chairs to dropping augmented-reality murals, we are embracing the unknown, continuously driven by a love of design, a commitment to creativity, and a desire to set the table with something truly memorable.
Join us as we pull back the curtain and invite you to step inside our ever-evolving think tank, experiential lab, and in-house art gallery to witness the fruits of our exploratory work. Handpicked, pressed, and served in a refreshing glass.
This Member Voice was submitted by Hanbury Orange Juice contributors Jack Wasielewski, Tony Lin, and Alec Yuzhbabenko. A multi-disciplinary architecture, design and planning firm, Hanbury shapes civic and community, higher education, and life science environments and experiences.
Erica Cochran Hameen, Assoc. AIA, is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, where she directs its equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, and co-directs the Center for Building Performance & Diagnostics. She holds a B.Arch. from Virginia Tech and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon in Building Performance & Diagnostics, and serves as the Track Chair for the Doctor of Design degree program. Hameen observes that this generation of architecture students arrive at their first year studios with a greater sense of agency than before. That’s good, says Hameen, because they’ll need it to make a difference as the next generation of architects, engineers, and designers.
As someone who trained to be an architect and now helps designers consider their pathways, how would you characterize the professional landscape today?
In terms of students, they’re coming into the university with more agency than before. It’s exciting because we see students from multiple demographics who are expressing the intricacies and qualities of their demographics, and asking questions about how they can bring their experiences into design. We haven’t always seen that, and we see it today more and more. I see this with undergraduate and graduate students—they’re thinking about things from a global perspective. They’re asking how they can help people in the tropical global south—and these are students in Pittsburgh— who recognize that certain regions are disproportionately suffering from climate change. So, I see a generation of students who are thinking that way—about regions outside their own and regions beyond their experience.
What is the ethical imperative of architecture?
Making our buildings sustainable—and when I say that, I don’t mean just solar panels. We must think about it holistically. Sustainability deals with diversity, economics, and inclusivity. If we’re talking about Pittsburgh, African Americans here have the second highest energy burden rate in this country—which means you are spending a disproportionate amount of income on your appliance, taking buses and rides, cooling and heating your home. It is important to ask: Are you living in a place where your R-value is compromised because of your leaky roof? Are your children learning in a school where the air filters haven’t been cleaned lately and whose walls are crumbling? Do you live in a place where, 50 years ago, a highway was brought through the heart of the neighborhood? All of these things have an impact on our physiological health, our emotional health, and our mental health.
Before the pandemic, we spent 90 percent of our time indoors. As we migrated to spending more and more time indoors because of the pandemic, it rose to 95 percent. For those without means, low-income Americans—it’s imperative that they have opportunities for quality design. As architects and designers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our buildings don’t leak, have the right R-values, are airtight, and are properly ventilated.
How can architecture co-opt the concepts and practices associated with justice in a way that is meaningful?
Changing our building codes and making certain things a requirement. If we want to right wrongs, that’s what we have to do. If you’re designing housing or schools, it should be a requirement that you’re awarded LEED Gold. All low-income housing should be zero-energy housing. These are people who don’t have a lot of money and disposable income, so why should they pay energy bills? That’s one way to right an economic wrong. Another thing we can do is make post-occupancy evaluations a requirement—as part of our design process. It’s not enough to finish the project. We have to return to it and make sure what we designed is working the way it should. Thermal, acoustical, spatial—all the dimensions. Architects’ fees should be tied to it—and they shouldn’t get the last paycheck until the building is verified to be working as designed.
I teach a course on Indoor Environmental Quality, or IEQ, and in the second half of the course, students go and measure building environmental conditions—in disadvantaged communities. For one of the class projects, we went into a newly renovated school where we measured CO2 levels 400 percent higher than it’s supposed to be. The facility manager said, “Yes, in this classroom—the kids are very sleepy and the teacher complains about headaches,” and it was because that room had zero fresh air. Windows were sealed and nobody there knew had to adjust the mechanical system to receive fresh air. If there was a requirement for a post-occupancy evaluation and a provision for facility manager training on new systems contingent on the final design and construction payment, the poor air quality conditions could have been alleviated.
What are some concepts that you think the next generation of architects will have to redefine or, in some cases, define for the first time?
On the technical side, the next generation will need to address where to put the vapor barrier—and this is me wearing my techie hat. The maps that were drawn for America in terms of climate and temperatures are different now. It used to be that we always put the vapor barrier on the warm side of the wall, but what do you do for walls constructed in a colder region with a climate that is now much warmer than 30 or 50 years ago? The weather data files we were using in our energy modeling simulations were based on temperature ranges and climate data over a 25 year period almost 20 years ago, from 1991 to 2005—the weather files have had to change because our climate today includes noticeably warmer temperatures and precipitation variances. The next generation is going to have to identify what we’re going to do with our existing building stock—how do you retrofit them to prevent mold? I don’t know the answer, but I think my students will figure it out.
Also, I think the demographics of our cities are changing quickly and there are greater desires to recognize and express individual cultures. We must understand that different cultures have different needs—and if you have a client that’s of a different culture than yours, how do you identify and respect what’s important to them, and bring it into your design work? In terms of gender, I challenge my students on how they design bathrooms—why can’t there be gender neutral restrooms everywhere? Why can’t we have changing tables and spaces for nursing and breast pumping in every building? Quality design is also about empathy, and the more we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—as people and as designers—the more successful we’ll be in redefining architecture.
William Richards is a writer and the Editorial Director of Team Three, an editorial and creative consultancy based in Washington, DC.
The existing library at Christopher Newport University (CNU) was a compilation of four different decades of construction: the original 1966 one-story library, an addition in 1978, a second addition in 1993, and a major addition and renovation in 2008. This project needed to remove portions of the building, renovate 15,612 square-feet of the earliest building, and add 66,753 square-feet of new construction, all within state guidelines and funding.
In early November, AIA Virginia partnered with the Hanbury Community Design Lab to leverage the opportunity of having hundreds of visiting designers in Richmond for its annual Architecture Exchange East conference by hosting a design charrette to reimagine a site within the Broad Street Arts District.
Manoj Dalaya, FAIA, founding principal and co-President of KGD Architecture, with offices in Washington, D.C., Arlington, Bangkok, and Boston, talks a lot about the concept of balance as the basis of good design and forging a design-based architectural practice. Dalaya, the 2021 President of AIA Northern Virginia, received AIA Virginia’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2018 in part because of his leadership in balancing the requirements of clients seeking security in their office buildings as well as healthy, open, and light-infused spaces for their employees. “It’s an interesting question — balance,” he says, “and if you go back to look at the role of the architect, it’s always to keep things in balance from the first conversation to the last punch list item.”
On Nov. 30, 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron attended a remembrance ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery less than three weeks after Armistice Day and 104 years after the cease fire marking 40 million military and civilian deaths during World War I. The tomb behind the old Custis-Lee Mansion overlooking the cemetery holds the remains of four soldiers interred separately after highly choreographed selections over the last 10 decades, representing 19 candidates from both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, 17 of which were exhumed from French soil or passed through France on their way to final resting place in Virginia.