‘It’s a gift!’ Inside America’s miraculous new centre for arts and faith

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'It's a gift!' Inside America's miraculous new centre for arts and faith
Sanaa’s Grace Farms project snakes down a hillside in New Canaan, Connecticut

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'It's a gift!' Inside America's miraculous new centre for arts and faith
Sanaa’s Grace Farms project snakes down a hillside in New Canaan, Connecticut

Japanese architects Sanaa get spiritual with the sublime $83m Grace Farms centre for arts, faith and justice in New Canaan, Connecticut, which is backed by a hedge fund manager. Just don’t call it a church

In the bucolic idyll of New Canaan, Connecticut, a silvery serpentine rooftop slithers down the hillside. Charting a course of shallow switchbacks, gently flaring up and down as it swooshes down the slope, it looks like the path of a snowboarder, frozen in motion and raised up on slender white slalom poles.

Groups of people drift beneath this wafer-thin canopy, dissolving into glass pods that nestle below the roof like dew drops under a leaf.

Such a delicate vision could only be the work of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, aka Sanaa – the Japanese architects who have devoted their career to conjuring structures so thin they might evaporate at any minute. They have blown concrete into improbable balloons, stretched glass into ribbons and made steel levitate on toothpick columns, creating buildings that seem to come from another, lighter realm. And now in Grace Farms, an $83m centre for faith and the arts, it seems they may have finally found a client and brief that meets their ethereal match.

“It is a place for people to just come and ‘be’,” says Sharon Prince, president of the Grace Farms Foundation, when I try to pin her down on what exactly this new facility is for, after a four-hour site tour. “It’s a gift,” she adds. “A place for people to experience nature, foster community, pursue justice and explore faith – with artistic expression as a common thread”. […]

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