I turned 52 this year and so did the Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts; yes, we were both born in 1960, the year of the rat – significant for our shared history of cunningly efficient artistic bearing. I had a chance to visit the school this summer on our family jaunt to the outerlands of New Brunswick and Maine.
Haystack is on Deer Isle, a small island (among thousands) that populates the Atlantic Ocean along the Maine Coast. The property is at the end of Ocean View Road – about 30 minute drive from Stonington, a small, vibrant arts-lobster town where we stayed in a renovated fisherman’s shack with our oil-painting friend Don Bardelo. Don has taken many classes at the school and suggested I might want to visit — little did he know that this project was one of the MOST influential buildings in my early training as an Architect.
Haystack was designed by Edward Larabee Barnes in 1960. In the early 1980’s, it was still being heralded by the Gropius-inspired teachers at the University of Arizona College of Environmental Design (in particular, my favorite chain-smoking, cowboy booted professor, uber-modernist Doug MacNeil) who presented this project as a seminal example of elegantly-simple, modern architecture tied to place that was uniquely American. And it stuck. After seeing the building in person I felt like my entire career as an Architect has been a search for my own Haystack. We are currently working on a project in Cazadero that has many of the same foundational conditions informing the design: sequence of entry, experience of view, formal response to place/light, and the subtle separation between public and private. Not having a camera for my tour of Haystack was a blessing in disguise . . . an opportunity to be in the place instead of visually recording it.
Fifty two years later, we are both showing signs of age, the wrinkles, creases and worn skin becoming a patina of beauty from one who has been loved for so long.