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Singers Glen Addition

The Singer’s Glen Schoolhouse, circa 1906, is positioned at the top of Glen School Circle overlooking the picturesque village of Singer’s Glen, with a view beyond of hills and the nearby Appalachian Mountains. The classic layout features four large classrooms, two up, two down, flanking a grand central staircase.

The addition concept is to add to the schoolhouse without compromising the feeling of the original stand-alone building. Besides the added space, we envision an interior that preserves the four large rooms in a modern open plan. We envision an outside that remains open to the views while providing private outdoor spaces.

Inside

On the inside, the classic layout of four large classrooms, two up, two down, flanking a grand central staircase, has been kept by employing a modern open plan. Where room divisions have been necessary for the bedrooms upstairs, the new walls are designed with cabinet-like materials and detailing, at walls and ceilings, giving the impression that they have been temporary inserted into the large rooms. The original plaster-on-brick walls will still feel continuous throughout the house.

This concept is for a family of 4 with a detached guesthouse. Based on the assumption that one or both parents are professionals working from home, the plan features two work offices. The guesthouse is designed to be close, but not too close, to the main house, and to have its own orientation away from the house, toward the the 2 acre woods.

Outside

The added elements are designed to contrast with the original schoolhouse, both in materials and in form. The elements are whole, resolved forms in themselves, without inflection from the roof lines or walls of the school. Where these new elements contact the existing structure, it is done with descretion so that the schoolhouse continues to appear complete and undisturbed.

The same bluestone concrete used in the site walls has been used in the added elements, keeping the range of materials on the site to a minimum. The arch of the west porch roof touches the schoolhouse without changing it. The new east living space is separated from the schoolhouse by a three foot wide strip of continuous glass, leaving both forms clearly independent and allowing the sun to wash the schoolhouse brick wall with light, as though it were still outside.

Landscaping

While the original schoolhouse was positioned high on the hill overlooking the village and with a nice western view of hills and mountains, the immediate surroundings were rugged sloping terrain that had never been graded. Our goal with the landscaping and planting was to preserve the views, while at the same time re-grade the site to provide a large flat private lawn. We leveled the back yard, and used the soil cut from the back to fill the front. We maintained the maximum square footage of yard by the use of bluestone concrete retaining walls. The retaining wall formwork was carefully chosen to give the concrete a smooth reflective surface and local blue limestone was used as aggregate to achieve the light blue-grey finish. It is this same formwork and aggregate that would be used to form the walls of the added elements.

As a part of the concept of the back yard, we are showing a modern version of a Ha-ha wall. This option could be built if the woods became a shaded meadow for horses. On the yard side, the top of the Ha-ha wall is at the level of the yard, but the pasture grade is lower, so that from the yard there is no apparent barrier to the horses in the pasture.

The west retaining wall along the street maintains privacy from the street, but we also wanted a welcoming pedestrian entrance from the street. Coupled with that, we were struck by the idea of replacing the concord grape vine that we had found at the school, but which had to be uprooted during landscaping. So, we combined the grape arbor with a flight of stairs down to the street. In the growing season, pedestrian access will be through the lush coolness of the stepped grape arbor. The final detail was to make the bottom tread extra long, extending out toward the street in a welcoming gesture.

At the opposite end of the retaining wall from the arbor entrance, the original school bell is nestled between two timber benches, completing the composition along Glen School Circle.

The scheme presented here was based on a particular set of functions and desires. The same concept, of adding to the schoolhouse without compromising the feeling of the original stand-alone schoolhouse, would lend itself to other sets of functions and desires.