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Mandel Sculpture Studio
Leverett, MA

2023

Project Team:

Naomi Darling - Principal  

 

General Contractor: Wright Builders
Photography: Sean Kernan
 

In the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts, one of our vernacular typologies is the tobacco barn.  Long and narrow structures with tall vertical boards that open for natural ventilation, farmers since the 1800s have been using these barns to dry the broadleaf tobacco used for wrapping, binding and filling cigars. During drying season, the ventilation boards are open from “sill to plate”, emphasizing the verticality of the long vent boards through a rhythm of alternating boards and shadow.  

 

Inspired by these barns, the Mandel Sculpture studio is a simple gable roof structure with vertical accent battens that reference the rhythm of the vertical open vent boards of the vernacular tobacco barns. The site is located on the north slope of Cave Hill in Leverett, MA, and tucked up against an existing tree line to allow for a broad expanse of the field to the north and even north light in the studio. The client for the project is a sculptor who makes three-dimensional objects and then uses photos and video to create optical illusions using some of these made objects. As such, there were two competing design criteria for natural light – on the one hand, Mandel wanted north light for working, but he also needed an exhibition/shooting space for photo and video with no windows that could be closed off from any natural light. In addition, Mandel required some storage and a covered outdoor workspace for welding that would be safe with metal sparks flying. The design solution extends the gable roof over an outdoor workspace with a lattice screen within the gable for light, air and openness/enclosure. The walls in the welding area have corrugated metal panels for any stray sparks. Within the studio, the space is divided into a primary workshop, a shooting and exhibition space that can be closed off for total light control, and a storage space. While large windows to the north allow for ample even daylight, smaller awning windows on the south side allow for a view to the trees and cross ventilation. Large custom doors open into the studio for large materials coming in and out and can also be opened in the shoulder seasons to extend the studio to the covered patio space. 

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