Alnoba is a unique, environmentally focused retreat center designed to inspire reflection, connection, leadership, and personal growth. The centerpiece of its pristine 400-acre campus is this new 13,000-square-foot building, whose design program included event spaces, meeting rooms, a yoga studio, dining facilities, and a full commercial kitchen. In its management of form, materiality, light, and energy performance, the building also addresses a more aspirational program, embodying commitments to environmental stewardship, health and well-being, and the potential of special places to foster transformative experiences.
Reflecting the rural character of the site, the building draws its design language from traditional New England barns. It occupies the wooded margin of a sloping meadow, where the natural grade flows around the structure in the traditional pattern of a bank barn. Its connected, barn-like elements are grounded by granite-faced foundations and articulated with bands of white cedar siding. Dark-framed glazing wraps the corners, lending a contemporary sense of transparency, revealing the building’s structure, and allowing the site to inform the indoor experience.
Reclaimed-timber structural frames define the building’s four major public spaces. Each follows a traditional pattern, increasing in scale from the intimate meditation room to the expansive meeting room, with its 60-foot double-top-chord trusses. Glazing along roof ridges and behind slatted screening at the meeting room gables admits filtered daylight, recalling patterns of sunlight through the cracks in barn siding. Layered behind the timber frames is a palette of simple, elemental materials—reclaimed wood, stone, and plaster—that will age gracefully, allowing the building to develop a patina that reflects use over time.
The building supports its mission of environmental stewardship also by adhering to the Passive House approach to energy efficiency and indoor air quality. The building enclosure is superinsulated and thoroughly air-sealed, with a carefully designed heat-recovery ventilation system that ensures fresh air and a healthy indoor environment. Triple-glazed window and door systems were required, not only to meet the Passive House standard, but also to ensure thermal comfort. We integrated the meeting room’s massive six-foot-high fireplace into this tightly controlled building envelope by completely air-sealing the chimney, fitting an airtight damper, and providing a dedicated supply of make-up air.
Completed in early 2017, the building is currently on track for certification by Passive House Institute, demonstrating that architecture deeply rooted in place and tradition can also meet the most rigorous standards of building performance.
Becker Structural Engineers, Peter Knuppel Lighting Design, Peterson Engineering, Stedea Design, Sasaki Landscape Architect