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Storied stables: Social engagements for social sustainability

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Meredith Mimms
Interior Design
In partial fulfillment of the requirements
For the Degree of Master of Art
Corcoran College of Art and Design
Washington, DC
Spring 2010
UMI Number: 1476736
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UMI 1476736
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Responsible design encourages a sense of social responsibility to maintain our natural
and built environments and the diverse communities and cultures that inhabit them, as
demonstrated by the sustainable rehabilitation of Redfield Stables as a space for events with
minimal environmental impact.
The built environment helps shape our individual and collective identities. Preservation
of place and adaptive reuse of buildings celebrate the dynamic of the future and addresses
the lessons of the past. They celebrate diversity, recognizing the value of old and new, of
modernity and tradition. Successful revitalization demonstrates that forms, materials, and
building techniques used in the past are still valid when properly adapted to contemporary
needs and demands. This most basic sense of historic preservation applies directly to
sustainable development and addresses our social responsibility to maintain historical and
cultural values.
The rehabilitation of Redfield Stables into a sustainable art exhibit, live performance,
and social event space will bring to the stables new purpose yet emphasize its characterdefining features. A literature review of sustainable development, historic preservation,
and barn restoration publications combined with an examination of the requirements
of event design informs the rehabilitation of the stables. Other important methods of
research are interviews with architects, historians, and academics who are relevant to
and progressive in all these fields of research and participation at conferences where the
foremost technologies and design solutions are being presented. An understanding of the
stables’ history defines its requirements of architecture and design, beginning with the use
of symmetry and mathematics as the basis for its program. Creative techniques to achieve
maximum flexibility for the division of spaces will be complemented by the incorporation of
environmentally-innovative but historically consistent materials. Special attention is given
to defining features that support social sustainability and encourage community. Flexibility
and adaptive qualities are also important elements of its sustainable revitalization.
As the work presented in this thesis will show, the preservation of architecture, sustainable
design, and event design span a wide range of disciplines, but they all have one very
important thing in common: they all tell a story. All spaces interpret some time or place,
and the tangible aspects of the historic character of a stable—its setting, form, materials,
door and window openings, large interior space, structural framework, and decorative
features—define its past, its story, its cultural and historical significance. The reuse of
an historic building should generate excitement and spark dialogue and curiosity. The
newly revitalized spaces of Redfield Stables transform the stories of its past in terms of
its contemporary use as a sustainable event space, while the use of the space for cultural
purposes helps to emphasize continuity. Its use as a space for sustainable events, with
moneys raised going towards like-minded fundraising efforts, further promotes the value
of our historic and cultural resources and the social responsibility we have to be not only
environmentally and economically sustainable, but also socially sustainable. The events that
take place within will promote these sustainable strategies through collaborative efforts, of
balancing economic, environmental, and community objectives. In turn, these events will
inspire new and engaging ideas that lead to further economic opportunity, social equity,
and environmental well-being.
To my parents, for their enduring love and support.
The following Master’s thesis, while an individual work, benefitted from the insights and
direction of several people. First, my Thesis Chair, Catherine Armour, exemplifies the
high quality scholarship to which I aspire. She always made herself accessible to impart
knowledge, advice, and encouragement, for which I am grateful. In addition, my Thesis
Advisors, Carissa Gavin and Emily Bishop, provided instructive comments and evaluation
at every stage of the thesis process. I attribute the level of enthusiasm I have maintained for
my subject to their own interest and efforts in the project. Each individual provided insights
that guided and challenged my thinking.
My time at the Corcoran would not have been the same without the close ties I made with
my classmates. I have learned a great deal from so many of them and gratefully acknowledge
each one. In addition, all of the amazing friendships that I made during my years at the
Corcoran and in Washington, D.C., provided me much needed support and, oftentimes,
mind-clearing distraction.
Finally, my husband deserves special thanks for never losing patience with me and for his
unceasing love and advocacy, without which I would have surely lost momentum. And of
course my family and friends, who cheered me on and inspired me through the very end.
CHAPTER 1: A Story About Social Sustainability. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Historic Preservation
Sustainable Design
Social Sustainability
CHAPTER 2: A Story About Events. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Requirements of Event Spaces
Sustainable Events
CHAPTER 3: A Story About Horse Stables. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
The History of Stables
The Preservation and Revitalization of Stables
Style, Structure, and Form
Character-Defining Features
The Sustainability of Stables
CHAPTER 4: A Story About the Site. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
The Setting
The Site: Redfields Stables
CHAPTER 5: A Story About the Project. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Appendix A. Maps of Somerset County, New Jersey
Appendix B.
Existing Design
Appendix C. Proposed Exterior Design
Appendix D. Proposed Courtyard & Event Design
Appendix E.
Proposed First Floor Design
Appendix F.
Proposed Second Floor Design
Design gives people the ability to control their environment in ways that fulfill their needs
and desires. It has the potential to arouse a range of emotions, from meeting the most basic
needs to overwhelming, from comforting to inspiring. Design also serves as a solution to a
problem. In a time of rapid natural, environmental, cultural, and social resource depletion,
responsible design practices must be implemented to encourage socially responsible actions.
Contemporary society is already aware of the benefits of and necessity for environmentally
sustainable design. At the basis of sustainable design is a respect for diversity—an
appreciation for biodiversity and for variety of place and of culture. Respecting diversity
in design means considering not only how a structure is built and what materials and
methods are used, but also how the space will be used and by whom. A structure’s functions
inevitably but unexpectedly evolve over time, and the design of a space must have enough
flexibility to address the needs of each situation, use, and user. Merriam-Webster defines
the word ‘flexibility’ as something that is characterized by a ready capability to adapt to
new, different, or changing requirements.1 The ability to adapt to diverse circumstances is a
necessary design element of respectful, sustainable development.
Recently, the practice of historic preservation has been endorsed for its inherent sustainability.
While it can achieve the environmental and economic goals of sustainable development,
it is not necessarily always the most environmentally or economically beneficial solution.
However, preservation, in particular rehabilitation and adaptive reuse, has utmost concern
for the preservation of social and cultural resources. It preserves the good design that already
exists, which validates and sustains its cultural relevance. As Chapter 1 will show, historic
preservation and sustainable design are fundamentally linked in the profound value they
both place on social sustainability. Social sustainability relies on the concept of humanistic
sustainability, which focuses on people as an integral part of the natural environment.
As a physical representation, design also has a unique opportunity to draw attention to the
concept of social sustainability and teach its importance to preserving and maintaining all
of our valuable resources. The disintegration of formal and informal social structures that
were once so typical—from political parties and church groups to gossiping with neighbors
and sending greeting cards—illustrates people’s increasing detachment from community
involvement. Depersonalized behavior fosters a lost sense of social responsibility, and is
detrimental to sustaining our built and natural environment and the diverse communities
and cultures that inhabit it. Restoring social engagement will sustain what is of cultural,
historic, and individual importance to our society, and will effectively promote an
appreciation for social diversity.
Event spaces, covered in Chapter 2, follow naturally from the community and connectivity
that social sustainability fosters. Events are a place where people go to learn, to be stimulated,
to network, to socialize. A sustainable event conserves and restores resources, encourages
collaboration and involvement, adds value to the local economy, and educates people about
the benefits of sustainability. This proposal explores the sustainable rehabilitation of a horse
stable as a space for sustainable events, providing responsible design to promote social
responsibility. By examining the history and consequent development of horse stables,
Chapter 3 demonstrates the potential they hold for revitalization, specifically as event
The creative translation of Redfield Stables’ history, discussed in Chapter 4, into its
contemporary condition will communicate the natural relationship between historic
preservation and sustainable development. Its use within the community will foster the
alignment of historic preservation with environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
The stables’ design, as explained in Chapter 5, will integrate art exhibits, live performances,
and private social events. Its spaces will be reinterpreted through the language of flexibility
to respect its historic character, its future use, and its environmental and social sustainability.
It will be a place where people go to enjoy themselves, but also a place that will inspire them
to be more socially responsible. The revitalization of Redfield Stables provides a culturally
relevant project that will attract attention to the dwindling sense of community and social
responsibility in modern society, and motivate individuals to think and act now for the
preservation and success of the future.
A Story About Social Sustainability
“The earth is not given to us by our parents, it is lent to us by our children.”1
—Kenyan proverb
Image 1.1: Colorful Diversity of Historic Preservation Efforts (Courtesy of Design yorb Web site)
As a society, Americans have always had some appreciation for and pride in our cultural
and architectural heritage, but only in the last few decades has the general public become
meaningfully aware of the significance of its historic structures and sites. In the past, building
conversions often took place without regard for history or character. Many early preservation
activities occurred throughout the nation in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries,
with focus on saving national landmarks as antiques and museum pieces. As a grass-roots
movement, historic preservation needed political, economic, social, and philosophical
advocacy for growth.2 Toward the middle of the twentieth century, these trends all converged
to make historic preservation a national practice. Congress’s establishment in 1949 of the
National Trust for Historic Preservation, a non-governmental organization devoted to
encouraging, supporting, broadening, and strengthening preservation efforts in both the
private and public sectors, was instrumental in increasing the popularity and awareness of
preservation within society and for the development of historic preservation as a practice.3
In 1966, the National Trust for Historic Preservation published a book, With Heritage So
Rich, that illustrated American architectural heritage. Its ideas were so provocative that it
influenced Congress to pass the National Historic Preservation Act, a landmark legislation,
perhaps the most important historic preservation legislation ever passed by Congress. At all
levels, it initiated a preservation consciousness that encouraged a more vigorous national
program for saving the heritage of structures and sites. Image 1.1 is a representation of the
respect that exists today for architectural integrity and distinction in historic preservation
Since the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, the preservation movement has
undergone significant changes; it has “protected landmarks of historical and architectural
significance, been valued as an effective revitalization tool with economic benefits, and it
has been a means of strengthening the cultural ties that bind us together as a nation.”4
Preservation practices no longer focus exclusively on national landmarks and solely on
techniques that preserve structures. Buildings with local and statewide significance are
seen as contributing to the nation’s heritage in a larger historic context. In addition, entire
areas can be designated as historic districts.5 Through the newly established practice of
rehabilitation as an approach to preservation, the concept of adaptive reuse conserved the
resources of the built environment in ways that made them consistent with contemporary
needs and demands and enabled buildings to continue to contribute to the economic and
social vitality of a community and its future generations.6
Buildings are irreplaceable as embodiments of the cultural ideologies that shaped them.
They impart traditions and assure the continuity of our culture. Preservation is “having
the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us with our past in
a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them.”7 It is about conserving
our buildings, communities and cultures, and the individual identities expressed by these
structures. Saving and adapting these buildings for reuse not only links modern communities
with those of the past, but it also maintains them for the benefit and knowledge of future
generations. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter said, “In its land and in its history, a nation
finds the things which give it continuity. By preserving places that have special natural,
historic, and scientific value, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren have a
chance to know something of the America that we—and our ancestors—simply took for
granted.”8 The historic environment enriches people’s understanding of the diversity and
nature of their community.
The philosophy of preservation is “defined more through activities than theory. . . . Some
see their roles primarily as saving old buildings, some as preserving a cultural heritage,
some as fostering urban revitalization, and some as contributing to sustainability and an
alternative approach to current development practices.”9 In each of these activities, however,
architecture is being viewed as a process, one that is about a series of events, rather than
an accumulation of objects. Buildings are about the people who inhabited and used their
spaces. The historic environment also has an important place in local cultural activities and
can be a powerful focus for community action—a place where civic pride and a sense of
community involvement is renewed. Historic preservation conserves these irreplaceable
cultural resources and reinforces a sense of place by strengthening an area’s distinctive
A relatively new but very relevant initiative of the preservation community is to bring an
understanding of the value of conserving our existing resources in terms of environmental
sustainability. The direction being taken towards historic preservation as a sustainable
practice is evident in the New Jersey Historic Preservation Conference logo, as seen in
Image 1.2. The issue is no longer about
new versus old, but about the nature of
the vital relationship between the two.10
Preservation philosophy states that we
cannot build our way to sustainability. Four
out of every five existing buildings will be
renovated over the next generation while
Image 1.2: New Jersey Historic Preservation Conference logo
(Courtesy of Preservation New Jersey Web site)
two new buildings will be added, therefore, sustainability efforts must extend to the existing
building stock.11 Preservationists justify the rehabilitation of historic buildings for the
embodied energy that is inherent to historic buildings, materials, and assemblies; their longlasting, sturdy structures; and the sustainable attributes inherent to historic buildings such
as their careful siting on the land, use of locally available materials, and reliance on natural
sources of heating, lighting, and ventilation.12 Reusing buildings and reinvesting in older
and historic neighborhoods also offers a means of avoiding the negative impacts associated
with demolition and new construction. Reinvestment in older and historic communities
preserves the energy expended in creating the existing infrastructure, such as roads, water
systems, and sewage lines. It also respects and helps local economies by sustaining existing
businesses, in addition to creating jobs and attracting larger companies to the area. Retrofits
of historic buildings extends building life and better captures the energy savings available
through newer technologies.13 Respect for our existing built environment is an important
component of the strategy towards sustainability.
Image 1.3: Sustainability (Courtesy of Tom Liebel)
Early industries in the nineteenth century relied on what they assumed to be an endless
supply of natural resources. The raw materials that surrounded them seemed to be in such
abundance and nature was regarded as a perpetually regenerative resource that would
absorb all waste and continue to grow. The subtle qualities of the environment were not yet
a concern. At the same time, many perceived nature as a force that needed to be controlled
in order to be civilized. It was only a small group of men, mostly artists and creatives,
who saw in nature the sublime; a fierce wildness that inspired spiritual and imaginative
insight, and fought against the growing industrial, urban society and the destruction it
was imposing on the landscape they so admired. They helped to form small conservation
societies to preserve wilderness from industrial growth, which inspired awareness for and
action towards environmentalism. Then, Rachel Carson’s 1962 publication, Silent Spring
changed the course and purpose of environmentalism from a romantic view of preserving
pastoral landscapes to a scientifically-based supervision and reduction of toxins.14
Since then, our understanding of nature has dramatically changed. We have become aware
of how sensitive and vulnerable the environment is, and how badly we have compromised
it with modern industry and development. The problem we face now is finding a solution
that compensates for the mistakes of the past and reduces our environmental impact for the
In The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability, design guidelines that William
McDonough created in 1992 for the 2000 World’s Fair, he outlined nine sustainable design
principles that provided a basis for designers to reach sustainable ends.15 His essential point
is that the best way to reduce any environmental impact is not to recycle more, but to reduce,
avoid, minimize, sustain, limit, and halt the production and disposal of wasteful products
and the utilization of natural resources.
From The Hannover Principles evolved an
approach to sustainability that integrates
concerns (see Image 1.4). This concept of
sustainable development is “development
that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future
Image 1.4: The Three Primary Areas Concerning Sustainable
Development (Courtesy of Adventures in Design blog)
generations to meet their own needs.”16
that natural resources remain intact. Therefore, materials are sourced locally and from
renewable and replenishable natural resources, so they have lower levels of embodied
energy associated to them, and the waste volume is also reduced. The building consumes
less energy so its greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, subsequently reducing its impact
on the ozone and global warming. Economic sustainability is, quite literally, the monetary
profit of sustainable development. Some improvements that result from its integration are
job creation, lower energy and water costs, tax incentives, and increased productivity from
the increased control of ventilation, temperature, and lighting. Social sustainability upholds
individuals’ needs, such as those for health and well-being, nutrition, shelter, education,
and cultural expression. It encourages a cohesive society, but also stands for maintaining
the value of local cultures and creating and supporting equity among individuals.17 These
three principles combined define the modern concept of sustainable development.
Sustainable design philosophy aligns itself with the humanist tradition: it is about honoring
diversity in individuals in order to provide the safest and most comfortable places possible
without diminishing the ability to provide nourishing places for future generations and
species.18 Place has profound meaning in all societies as signifiers of individual and collective
identities and as a defining factor for architecture. A respect for place demands that our built
environments differ from region to region and from community to community. Sustainable
design follows this same ideal and also embraces individual and cultural differences.
For many years, people built structures using locally available materials. This created a
clear definition of and distinction between architectural styles. The “complex interplay of
climatalogical, biological, geological, and topographical features” provided a sense of place
and created architectural variations.19 Our cultural legacies drew from and responded to the
uniqueness of place; buildings, as the largest artifacts, became representational of culture.
Sustainable design, too, is based on the idea of regionalism. It recognizes the uniqueness of
place and aims to celebrate and protect what makes it different. It allows the characteristics
of a place to define the design process.
Diversity is an integral element of the natural world and respecting it is a central principle
of sustainable development. Industries that respect diversity “engage with local materials
and energy flows, and with local social, cultural, and economic forces, instead of viewing
themselves as autonomous entities, unconnected to the culture or landscape around them.”20
Sustainable design is inclusive of not only biodiversity, but also of diversity of place and of
culture. Design ideas are developed within the context of local and historical human culture,
and implemented using locally-grown, environmentally sustainable building methods and
materials, such as renewable and replenishable resources.
The next evolution for sustainable design lies in better understanding how to honor the
diversity of people and their roles in the physical environment.21 There exists significant
potential for the revitalization of abandoned but strong, well-designed, unique, and
culture-rich buildings within the fabric of our communities. Revitalizing the places we
have already developed and making them thrive under contemporary needs results in even
greater cultural richness. As the sustainable design movement continues to mature, respect
for people and the society and culture from which they come will hopefully emerge as a
main focus of the movement and provide momentum toward a more socially sustainable
Image 1.5: Social Sustainability (Courtesy of Sorinplaton blog)
Of the three complementary aspects of sustainable development, social sustainability
is probably the least understood, yet it is the fundamental connection that links historic
preservation and sustainable design as inextricable partners in achieving sustainability.
The concept of social sustainability analyzes place and community, promoting an equitable
relationship among neighbors, addressing issues of social justice, and preserving and
maintaining local cultures.22 It is a concept that relies on humanistic sustainability, which
“focuses on people as an integral part of the natural environment. When people are of
primary concern: community matters, health and wellness matters, safety and security
matters.”23 Social sustainability overlays traditional sustainable design strategies with design
strategies that foster community and connectivity. As represented in its logo (Image 1.5) it
holds in high esteem what is of cultural, historic, and individual importance to humanity. It
results in buildings that do not have a negative environmental impact and are comfortable,
healthy, safe structures for people. Its fundamental philosophy is caring for people as
individuals, communities, and embodiments of culture.
The historic preservation and sustainable design movements gained momentum during
the same century and were both conservation movements. Sustainability urged that society
conserve the earth’s rapidly disappearing resources for the benefit of future generations. The
historic preservation movement fostered preservation of the tangible elements of our past
for the benefit of the future. Their philosophies both require an understanding of how to
respect and renew what is already here and a vision for how to transform the legacy of the
past into and for the future.
While they may be natural allies, historic preservation and sustainable development do
serve purposes that are independent from each other and they weigh different methods
and outcomes differently. Historic preservation can be, but is not always, the most
environmentally sustainable action. However, it is an inherent part of and effective solution
toward sustainable development. The basic definition of sustainable development is design
that meets the needs of the present but will not inhibit the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs. Preservation teaches society to better value the past and realize our
responsibility to retain the culture of that past for the benefit of the future. The concern for
humanistic sustainability, essentially social sustainability, is what the fundamental theories
of the historic preservation and sustainable design disciplines share and where their goals
Social sustainability emphasizes protecting and respecting social diversity and ensures
that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve economic, environmental, and social
well-bring. Opportunities to learn and benefit from the lessons of the past through the
careful interpretation of structures, historically and ecologically, provide a catalyst for
change and a step toward social equity. Keeping the past alive for the benefit of present and
future generations is an important emotional aspect of the human experience, providing
a sense for the power of place and continuity of heritage. Focusing on the revitalization of
communities maintains social diversity and encourages civic and social engagement, giving
value to social resources and cultural capital. A site’s existence conveys cultural meaning
and information which can promote and foster intercultural dialogue and understanding.
Revitalizing an existing site to be accessible to the public further encourages awareness and
analysis of place and each individual’s sense of accountability. By upholding that everyone
has a responsibility to society, social sustainability is a social responsibility. Preservation of
place through the revitalization of historic structures and sustainable development achieves
social responsibility.
A Story About Events
“Finding art only in museums or in rare private collections is a sad situation. After all,
culture means mixing art and life.”1
—Isamu Noguchi
Image 2.1: Whitechapel Art Gallery, Whitechapel, East London,
completed 2009 (Courtesy of Witherford Watson Mann Architects)
No matter the event type, reusing an existing building forces the designer to engage
creatively within the limits and boundaries imposed by a given structure. “The relationship
between the architecture of a building and the art it exhibits has an important effect on
how it communicates. Out of varied reciprocal relationships between the artworks and the
spaces of the building emerge informal dialogues that create a sense of the collection as a
whole and one that is dependent on the building.”1 Buildings and landscapes are a part of
the identity of a city and an architect, and the architecture of a building is part of its appeal.
Event spaces require a certain amount of flexibility, particularly because they often serve
multiple functions, all of which demand unique expressive and technical requirements.
Image 2.1 shows the Whitechapel Art Gallery, which was purposefully designed as an open
space for maximum flexibility to house various exhibits and events. Designing a space for
events without compromising the character of the existing building, involves discovering
and drawing on the building’s inherent purpose to integrate the event’s concept with its
environment. Providing enough flexibility for the various event types to express themselves
involves reinterpreting the existing
framework of the event’s concept.
Location, lighting, and scale of the
event’s exhibitions need to relate to
the character of each setting. The
Brant Foundation Art Study Center
Image 2.2: Brant Foundation Art Study Center (Courtesy of The Magazine
From the Wall Street Journal)
(see Image 2.2) exhibits a skillful
interpretation of a farm building converted to house Peter Brant’s extensive art collection.
Here, materials and design techniques are familiar to the original structure or emphasize it
by using contrast, and yet they also are successfully used to highlight the artwork.
Lighting design is paramount in performance venues because it is relevant to human comfort
and plays a vital part in the visitor’s experience. It affects the way in which a performance
or an artwork is perceived, the effectiveness with which it communicates, and the rendering
of form and color.2 A space that hosts a variety of events necessitates a flexible grid to
accommodate the various lighting needs. Likewise, flexibility of space within the building
is important for the shuffling of placement, size, and shape of spaces for distinct events.
The space should be designed to evolve with the nature of its current function without
compromising its inherent and characteristic integrity.
Implementing an environmentally efficient design within an existing space presents more
difficulties. For certain specialized building types, such as performance venues, sustainable
design is even more challenging to accomplish. In some ways, event spaces are considered
inherently un-sustainable. Lighting and sound are demanding of energy resources because
control is such a large issue. Although large steps have been made in the efficiency of
theatrical luminaires, event design necessitates sensitive controls of color rendering and
the ability to focus and control where light is directed, limiting their applications. However,
as with other elements of design, theatrical lighting is trying to do more with less and is
gaining ground on sustainability Also, the model of the regional theater movement—which
introduced the ideas of seasonal performances and subscriptions and community outreach,
and provided the smaller communities of America with arts organizations—and other
similar local performance venues require that exhibits last for a brief period, typically a
season, resulting in the wasteful deconstruction and disposal of sets and costumes.3
But in a much more significant way, regional and local performance venues and arts
organizations are natural-born leaders of innovation. They have a relationship unlike any
other with their communities and value small, intimate, local concerns, both positive and
negative. Their performances and exhibits, whose aim is to entertain but also to provoke,
often address social issues. This artistic tradition of innovation and inspiration combined
with their integration and influence in their community makes these organizations agents
of change for spreading sustainability initiatives and environmentally efficient practices in
the twenty-first century.
Image 2.3 (left): Compostable “silver”-ware (Courtesy of UCLA Sustainability
Web site)
Image 2.4 (right): Martini Glass (Courtesy of dkk events)
The release of greenhouse gas emissions is a life-threatening environmental issue and has
substantial implications for regional and global governments and industries. Data from the
United States Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings are responsible
for almost fifty percent of the nation’s energy consumption and of all greenhouse gas
emissions annually, making them the largest contributor to global warming, as shown in
Images 2.5, 2.6, and 2.7.4 Clearly, immediate action in the building industry is necessary
to slow the rapidly accelerating climate change. After construction, events are the second
largest producers of industrial waste.5 The events industry is also responsible to recognize
the social, economic, and environmental impacts of organizing events and to respond in a
more sustainable way.
A green event “incorporates environmental considerations throughout all stages of the
[event] to minimize the negative impact on the environment.”6 Making informed choices
Image 2.5 (left): U.S. Energy Consumption: Old Chart Dividing Building Sectors (Courtesy of Architecture 2030)
Image 2.6 (center): U.S. Energy Consumption: New Chart Comparing Whole Building Sector with Other Industries (Courtesy of
Architecture 2030)
Image 2.7 (right): U.S. Electricity Consumption (Courtesy of Architecture 2030)
regarding everything from site selection to printed materials to catering and to waste, energy,
and water management can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the event. Even
small changes make a difference in reducing an event’s environmental and social impact in
addition to creating good public relations and contributing to overall sustainability.
Measures that can be employed to minimize the negative environmental effects of events
are varied. Since green products and practices continue to evolve, these measures can be
used situationally and as they best fit the circumstances of the event. A green event can be
accomplished through ensuring effective modes of public and low-emission transportation;
reducing energy consumption by deriving energy from clean and renewable resources and
offsetting emissions to achieve net carbon neutrality; using paperless or biodegradable
technology; and making informed decisions regarding catering, such as serving locally
grown or organic food, using biodegradable and compostable goods, and minimizing the
use of disposable items. The average meal travels fifteen thousand miles to reach the table,
billions of farm animals across the world are generating eighteen percent of the emissions
that raise global temperatures, and only one pound of that meat takes two thousand and
five hundred gallons of water to produce.7 On the other hand, sourcing from local food
supplies uses a tenth to a quarter less of the fuel than would be consumed by sourcing
from a typical large-scale food distributor.8 Eating locally means eating healthfully since it
requires seasonal produce and menus. As seen conceptually in Images 2.3, 2.4, and 2.8, 2.9,
and 2.10, creative menu choices are
also a fun way to educate participants
on local culture and get them thinking
about the source of the food they are
eating. The food served is a reflection
of the principles of the event and the
commitment of the organizers and
participants to sustainability. A green
event may also incorporate social
Image 2.8 (left): (Courtesy of Urban Diner Web site)
Image 2.9 (top right): Organic Fruit Market (Courtesy of Super Eco web
Image 2.10 (bottom right): Organic Vegetable Display (Courtesy of The
Foodie’s Chef Web site)
aspects such as donating unused
or reusable supplies to charitable
organizations. Reusing, recycling, and
composting systems have a significant impact on reducing the massive volume of waste
produced by events, which is one of the biggest environmental challenges encountered.
Maintaining and promoting local culture and heritage is also considered a sustainable
practice. Integrating the event space within the needs of the community is one way to achieve a
sustainable legacy. This includes designing a space using universal design principles, making
it accessible to all. Local organizations and businesses can also contribute to community
involvement with volunteers, the donation of sustainable products, and support.
One of the greatest actions an event can take to maximize its positive environmental impact
is to share the goals and environmental considerations that were achieved—communicate to
employees, volunteers, and guests what these choices mean and why they are important. Of
particular interest is the relevancy of the location: the community or the site itself, and what
it contributes to social and environmental consciousness. The event venue speaks volumes
about the accessibility of an event: it showcases its sustainable design, encourages discussion,
and promotes diversity and accessibility, which in turn touches on environmental, social,
and economic sustainability. Inspiring people to respect the planet—those animals, people
and communities which inhabit it, and the soil and water of which it is comprised—is an
environmental, economic, and a social responsibility.
Image 2.11: Social networking graph showing information
flow between people (Courtesy of
The preservation of architecture, sustainable design, and event design all span a wide
range of disciplines, but they all have one important thing in common: they all tell a story.
All spaces interpret some time or place. Sustainable practices, preservation of place, and
adaptive reuse celebrate the dynamic of the future and address the lessons of the past,
maintaining a building’s historic and cultural value. The effectiveness of an event, whether
an art display, a live performance, or a wedding, depends on the way it is structured as a form
of communication and story‐telling. Successful event spaces convey not only the history of
the building and its architecture, but also the narratives of its place in the environment and
each of its multiple functions. These individual, unique, possibly disparate tales then must
merge into a cohesive whole, and it is this path that the narrative takes that engages the
guest, bringing the story to life.
Events are a forum for people to learn, to be stimulated, and to network. In fact, the
thirst for innovation and collaboration often drives the motivation for an event. An
event that integrates the venue and event organizers’ commitment to social sustainability
into the storyline of the event, one that showcases their environmental strategy and the
historical, sustainable nature of the materials, will engage the visitors at an emotive level
and inspire dialogue. “Just as a good story captivates an audience, so an event conceived
of a narrative is considered to be an effective form of communication and learning.”9 An
event is an opportunity for social networking, a powerful tool to spread the concept of
social responsibility, which may lead to innovation and collaboration, both of which are
core values that lead to sustainability. Having an impact on a community is a significant
characteristic from which an event space benefits and one that can achieve a great impetus
toward social sustainability.
A Story About Horse Stables
“Barns have always filled me with a sense of wonder and adventure. They make me want
to climb, explore, lie on my back in a pile of fragrant hay and gaze up to the rafters where
the swallows dart and wheel. I like the way the light slants through numerous cracks in the
walls and picks up on the dust suspended in the air; I like the solid muscularity of massive
timbers aged to a honey‐brown; I like the feeling of history in a barn: season after season of
steadfast service, untold number of children who played within on rainy days, and the sense
of permanence against the rapidly changing backdrop of society. I definitely have a kind of
nostalgia about barns. They represent shelter, longevity, durability. . .even loyalty.”1
—Ben Leeming
Image 3.1: Historic Stable at Will Rogers State Historic Park, circa 1970s (Courtesy
of California State Parks Web site)
It was the late eighteenth century when Thomas Jefferson extolled the virtues of a country
devoted to agriculture. His hope was to expand farming across the United States. The
passage of the Land Ordinance in 1785, a set of regulations which imposed a standardized
survey system of the land in the nation by dividing the land into large square units called
townships, was largely inspired by Jefferson’s agrarian vision. Motivated by the large plots of
land offered via the Land Ordinance and encouraged by Jefferson, close to eighty percent of
all Americans lived on farms by the beginning of the nineteenth century.2 Farm buildings
clearly became the most representative architectural expression in a country so devoted to
farm life. As shown by Image 3.1, Americans felt considerable pride in their animals and
in their farm buildings, as exhibitors of their status, wealth, and devotion to agricultural
Coinciding with the nation’s growing return to and interest in an agricultural lifestyle,
represented by the emblematic American farmer, was its newly found focus on the competing
promise of technological progress. The nineteenth century would characterize success
as the growth of cities, the rise of factories, the building of railroads, and the invention
of machines.3 Sadly, by the end of the nineteenth century, many farms were forced into
decline and barns and stables fell into disrepare by a reconfigured landscape proliferated by
commercial and residential development.
Yet the ascent of industry could not erase the image of the farmstead from the popular
imagination. The barn had become deeply ingrained in American speech and custom as
a sturdy, permanent structure. For instance, it became the standard point of reference for
measure. Anything that was huge was said to be as “big as a barn.” Anyone who could not
aim a throw accurately was criticized as not being able to “hit the broad side of a barn.”
In 1848, barns even entered the political arena when a group of politicians earned the
nickname of “barn burners” for their zealous opposition to the expansion of slavery.4 For
individuals who lived in small towns close to the countryside, their acquaintance with barns
remained intimate; they knew them as workplaces, dance halls, social centers, and even as
religious sites.
While the technological progress of the nineteenth century had its detrimental effects on
farms and their buildings, it also witnessed a change in lifestyles and feelings toward horses
and how they should be housed. In particular, the discovery of oil in August of 1859 began
an economic boom and signaled the end of the workhorse era. The growth in wealth spurred
the desire for handsome riding and carriage horses. When horses worked for their living,
many horse barns provided only standing stalls which gave the horse enough room to eat
and drink, but not enough to turn around or lie down. The stables were rarely designed by
trained architects; most were constructed by itinerant builders, who put up variations of
what they had assembled dozens of times before. In the beginning of the twentieth century,
horses in North America went from working for their living to being animals that existed
mostly for the pleasure of their owners.5 Increased leisure time and a growing economy
allowed individuals to own, board, and ride horses at commercial stables or in horse barns
on their own property.
Some of these facilities were built for specific purposes, such as breeding, birthing, and/
or housing race horses, hunter‐jumpers, dressage competitors, or working draft horses.
This initiated an evolution in the design of
stables and other farm buildings, as is seen in
a comparison of the brood mare barn in Image
3.2 and the saddle horse barn in Image 3.3.
Owners of horses desired stables that focused
on equine health and safety and also revealed
the purpose of the farm. Architects began to
recognize and appreciate the human—animal
relationship and created spaces where social
Image 3.2 (above): Brood mare barn, Longview Farm,
Missouri (Courtesy of Barns)
Image 3.3 (below): Saddle horse barn, Longview Farm,
Missouri (Courtesy of Barns)
interaction took place, where people could
comfortably linger and secure horses could
relax. Stables have developed into attractive buildings that are also cost- and labor-efficient.6
In the last half of the twentieth century, the passion for horses deepened, and many stables
now exist for purely pleasurable reasons, in which horses are housed as pets. That passion
has also encouraged ongoing concern for the horses’ well-being, health and safety, and for
the health and safety of the people who work around them. Attention to matters of air
quality and reducing any risk of fire now rank foremost among issues architects consider
when designing new stables. The passion these owners have for their horses has manifested
itself in great architecture.
Image 3.4: Sagamore Farm, Before and After (Courtesy of Stable Minded: An Equestrian Design Blog)
Historic stables are clearly a vital part of our nation’s heritage as proud symbols of our
agricultural past. They are durable elements of everyday life that are sources of information
about architectural styles and the past, and provide local history. Their lasting forms reveal
ethnic origins, mark the rise and fall of designs and construction techniques, and signal the
evolution of farming practices and routines.7
The history of a particular farm can be explained by studying when its buildings were built
and by whom; what innovations or ethnic traditions were significant to the original design;
and what changes have been made since to accommodate developments in farm products
or agricultural technology (see changes made to Sagamore Farm in Image 3.4). The features
of a stable that are historically important and contain information about its past should
be conserved so that the historical integrity of the stable is not lost to future generations.
Stables are innately versatile buildings, so caring for and reusing existing resources is a
smarter alternative to tearing down and building new.8 The opportunities to reinvigorate an
old stable are manifold and though it may no longer be well-suited for its original purpose,
through thoughtful adaptation, the building can again be vital.
Artists were one of the earliest groups to recognize the potential in stables for transformation.
Sculptors, writers, bookbiners, cabinetmakers, and musicians have adapted stables for their
own personal creative use, taking advantage of their
comfortable and compatible interior spaces.9 Many
stables have become areas for personal recreation and
fitness, some even accommodating a pool in their
open space. This open space naturally lends itself to
the role of reception hall or restaurant (Artist William
Image 3.5: Dance of the Haymakers, by William
Sidney Mount (Courtesy of Barn Preservation and
Sidney Mount famously portrayed revelry in a barn
in his painting, Dance of the Haymakers, Image 3.5)
and recently it has been realized by
libraries, galleries, and concert halls
as a spectacular venue. For instance,
Kunsthalle Krems horse stable, seen in
Image 3.6, was successfully rehabilitated
as an art gallery. Public and commercial
uses can often best preserve the internal
character of a stable; while residential
use is common, it is generally an
innapropriate form of adaptive reuse
Image 3.6: Kunsthalle Krems horse stable renovated as an art gallery,
Krems, Austria, 1995 (Courtesy of Rehabilitated Buildings)
since it often involves dividing a whole into a number of smaller spaces. Regardless of the
type of renovation, it can be argued that the most successful renovation is one in which
the deliberate decisions that were made to allow the structure to appear natural in its
surroundings remain imperceptible. In preservation projects, it is important to keep in
mind that stables “inherently possess a timeless quality, borne of straightforward design
and traditional materials, which is best suited for restraining architectural exuberance.”10
Preserving as many of the significant details—beams, flooring, siding, windows, and
doors—as possible and working within the original lines of the building is the most basic
way to maintain the stable’s defining qualities.
Image 3.7 (left): Horse Stables (Courtesy of Flickr online photo sharing)
Image 3.8 (right): Elephant Stables, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India (Courtesy of RedBubble)
“A barn is about as honest as you can get. The old has its own vocabulary, and the new
has its own vocabulary.”11 The individuality of a horse barn in terms of its size, design,
and construction is perhaps its most appealing and charming feature. The problems and
opportunities in farm life in the United States motivated even the early Colonial barn
builders to begin simplifying their horse barn building practices. The small but continuous
changes and refinements they made created a great change in horse barn building techniques
and a clear division between older and more modern stable types.12
Other factors than age affect the aesthetic of a stable. Functional needs are, more than any
other factor, what makes a typical stable look different from region to region of America.
Climate variations by region also have a critical influence on the aesthetics of a stable.13
Specifically, the Mid-Atlantic states, which consist of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York,
and New Jersey, contain some of the most productive farmland in the United States. New
Jersey, which sits for the most part atop a rolling coastal plain, is known for dairy, fruit,
vegetable, and poultry farming. The state was developed under British control but shows a
considerable amount of diversity besides traditional English barns, which are characterized
by large stabling areas on either side of a smaller central passage. In fact, the designs
for stables found in this region range from the purely functional to the extraordinarily
decorative. Many tend to be starkly geometric and bereft of superficial adornment, perhaps
because stables are by nature utilitarian buildings. However, because the stables that were
attached to country homes were considered ornaments to the house, they were adorned in
a variety of decorative features, including elaborate window moldings, brackets, cupolas,
and towers. Also carried over from the attached home was a design based on symmetry and
a relationship in the building’s proportions.14 These and other distinct aesthetics of a stable
convey individuality and are important for indicating its purpose, location, age, and general
Image 3.9: Archibald Mills Barn, Colorado (Courtesy of Barn
Preservation and Adaptation: The Evolution of a Vernacular Icon)
According to the National Park Service, a character-defining feature is “a prominent
or distinctive aspect, quality, or characteristic of a historic property that contributes
significantly to its physical character. Structures, objects, vegetation, spatial relationships,
views, furnishings, decorative details, and materials may be such features.”15 More simply
put, a character-defining feature is a quality that helps a building convey its sense of history.
These elements include the overall shape of the building, its materials, craftsmanship,
decorative details, interior spaces and features, as well as the various aspects of its site and
environment. Image 3.9 is a depiction of a stable with strong character-defining features,
some of which are the use of wood and stone, the long and lean shape of the windows, the
repetition of the beams and the look of their hand-craftsmanship, and the height of the
space. Despite the temptations of endless possibilities for renovation in a farm building,
“the successful barn conversion requires uncompromising respect for the integrity of the
features that give the original structure intrinsic character.”16
To help identify the overall visual character of a building, the National Park Service suggests
starting with larger concepts and moving toward small details: first examining the building
from a distance to understand its overall setting and architectural context; then taking a
close look at it to appreciate its materials and the craftsmanship and surface finishes evident
in these materials; and then going into and through the building to perceive the spaces
and details that comprise its interior visual character.17 For stables especially, the setting
is a significant detail. Few stables stand alone on the landscape. Often they are integrated
into a self-enclosed courtyard. Their relationship to surrounding fields and any other
structures, such as fences, stone walls, roads, paths, barnyards, corrals, windmills, and silos
is representative of their history.18 The shape of the stable, including the roof style, is also a
defining feature of the type of activities occuring within. The materials of a stable can convey
strength, solidarity, purpose, permanence, durability, and ruggedness. When identifying
decorative features of a stable, it is particularly important to acknowledge appropriate
proportions and to recognize distinct regional differences. Perhaps no other single feature
identifies the stable so well as the cupola. It ostensibly serves to further ventilate the hayloft
and may be topped with a functioning lightning rod or weathervane, but its inherent
purpose was to proclaim the prosperity of the farm.19 Aperatures and thresholds are also
important to and can establish both function and appearance. These include smaller doors
reserved for humans, wider doors for horses and other animals, and doors to the loft, but
most impressive are the central doors that lead to the traditional hub of activity on a working
farm.20 Sliding doors became popular in the late nineteenth century to reduce damage from
high winds when opened. In Dutch doors, the top and bottom open independently, so the
top can be opened for light and ventilation at the same time the bottom remains closed to
keep animals in or out.21 Transitioning to the interior, the large open space is illustrative of
the character of a stable, as is the exposed, authentic, utilitarian structural framework. Very
importantly, many of a stable’s attributes reveal its close association with its surroundings
and the understanding its owners, architects, and builders had of the benefits of working
alongside nature.
Image 3.10: Blackburn Greenbarns™ (Courtesy of Blackburn Architects, P.C. Web site)
The stable has always been closely connected to nature. A horse’s natural element is the
outdoors, so stables are intended to work with, embrace, and fully take advantage of their
natural settings. All the elements in its construction interact to create a structure appropriate
to its surroundings and to the purpose for which it was built. It seemingly grows out
of the natural terrain, drawing on wood, stone, clay, straw, and other local materials. It
is frequently built out of previously used materials and often these materials are in good
enough condition to be reused again when the stable is finally, if ever, taken apart. It is sited
on the land with utmost consideration: elevated above the surrounding terrain to facilitate
drainage and near a supply of fresh water. It is oriented to the weather, to take full advantage
of sun, shade, and winds, and careful consideration is also given to its structural proportions
to protect the stable from these same environmental factors.22 A principal aesthetic appeal
of an old stable lies in the feeling of its essential rightness.
A Story About the Site
“It was a time of prosperity and progress in our Nation and in the communities growing
up around us after the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad built a spur to
Gladstone. . . . There was great activity always in all aspects of outdoor life. There were
Polo Teams and games, Horse Shows, Dog Shows, Athletic Meets, and annual Farm
Shows. . . . Fox hunting has always been a very important aspect of our life in the Somerset
Hills. . . . The Garden Club of Somerset Hills. . .has made a deep impact on us all, not only
in interest in our own surroundings, but the need for conservation and ecology in all parts
of our country. The Bernardsville Garden Club, formed later, has also brought awareness
of our heritage of beauty and our guardianship of it and its wildlife. . . . Mr. Charles Squibb
conceived the idea of a bridle path association. In that way the estates would be linked
together and the roads avoided that were being macadamized, with a strip of dirt road for
carriages alongside. This network of paths covered more than sixty miles and was open to
all at that time for riding and walking.”1
—Margaret Lindabury Hull
Image 4.1: The Essex Hounds and Charles Pfizer, circa 1910 (Courtesy of The
Historical Society of the Somerset Hills)
Today, Somerset County is one of the nation’s oldest counties and is steeped in colonial
and Revolutionary War history. The County was established by charter on May 22, 1688,
and encompasses twenty towns, inluding Bernardsville, Far Hills, Peapack-Gladstone,
and Bedminster. Historic districts, sites, monuments, and buildings are found in virtually
every town. The County encompasses three hundred and five square miles in the heart
of Central New Jersey, near the nation’s largest metropolitan area (New York City), yet
maintains a balance between urban and suburban neighborhoods and rural countrysides.2
This diversity of landscape, population, and development reflects the varied lifestyles of its
estimated 323,552 residents.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the tremendous economic growth that the
United States experienced was accumulated largely by a select, but growing and increasingly
interrelated, group of industrialists and financiers who were determined to join the
ranks of the established upper class. To
assimilate themselves into society, these
entrepreneurs wanted to acquire all of the
material possessions of the aristocratic
life. Also during these decades following
the Civil War, American culture was again
enthusiastically praising rural life. The
newly wealthy families indulged on large
country farms and estates that recaptured
something of a rapidly vanishing way of
life and also evoked the most romantic
myths of country living and leisure, as
happened at Hamilton Farm, seen in
Image 4.2 (above): Aerial view of Hamilton Farm, a spectacular
but typical estate in the Somerset Hills, circa 1923 (Courtesy of
New Jersey Country Houses: The Somerset Hills Volume 1)3
Image 4.3 (below): Original clapboarded Hamilton Farm
residence, circa 1923 (Courtesy of New Jersey Country Houses:
The Somerset Hills Volume 1)
Images 4.2 and 4.3. No longer valuable
as agricultural resources, the properties
became a symbol of gentility and wealth.
Intended to be examples of conspicuous consumption and the pursuit of leisure, the estates
were a blatant statement of the owner’s social standing.
Of the country’s exclusive residential areas, such as Newport, Rhode Island; Bar Harbor,
Maine; Lenox, Massachusetts; the Main Line outside of Philadelphia; and the Hudson River
Valley of New York, the Somerset Hills was one of the earliest and most beautiful. Proximity
to New York City and Philadelphia drew summer cottagers during the mid-1800s, but
the area did not acquire a society cachet until the late 1880s. Regular train service from
Hoboken, Newark, and Summit to Bernardsville began in 1872 and was extended to Far
Hills, Peapack, and Gladstone in 1890.
This was a critical development for the
Somerset Hills. It was then that a select
group of wealthy families from both
New Jersey and New York began to
colonize the area around Morristown,
spreading their houses southward
toward Bernardsville and what are
Image 4.4: Bernardsville, New Jersey train station, circa 1900
(Courtesy of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills)
now Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills,
and Bedminster as land became more scarce. The families formed themselves around the
Essex Hunt Club and the Somerset Hills Country Club. Several generations came to enjoy
foxhunting and other equine sports because of the numerous state-of-the-art facilities for
riding and hunting activities for horses of all breeds.4
The social phenomenon that brought so many generations of extraordinary people to the
Somerset Hills produced an eclectic and beautiful array of architectural styles for homes,
farms, and landscapes. Fortunately, despite New Jersey’s alarming rate of land development
during the last fifty years, much of the landscape comprising the Somerset Hills estates
remains intact. Preserving these properties and their cultural value, maintaining the rich
history of the area, and protecting the landscape are very important issues to the families
still living there today. Which is why the Somerset Board of Chosen Freeholders established
several programs to further the preservation of farmland, open space, and historic resources
in Somerset County. In 1995, the County/Municipal Open Space Partnership Grant
program was established to assist municipalities in the acquisition of open space, which
would advance local preservation efforts. Since the program’s inception, nearly thirteen
million dollars has been awarded through the Partnership to help preserve 3,180 acres of
open space. The Farmland Preservation Program was created in 1983 in response to State
Enabling Legislation that was passed the same year, which allowed appropriate officials the
authority to implement or enforce the law regarding preservation issues. The program’s
principal objective is to create critical masses of preserved farmland to stabilize the loss
of Somerset County’s agricultural land base. The program has helped the County preserve
over seventy-six farms, totaling over 6,800 acres. Finally, the Historic Preservation Grant
Program was initiated to help individuals acquire, stabilize, rehabilitate, restore, and/or
preserve historic sites.5
Also concerned about sustainable development, Sustainable New Jersey was created
for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green and track their progress as they
take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. The Sustainable New Jersey
certification is a prestigious designation for municipalities that encompasses issues such
as global warming, pollution, biodiversity, land use and water quality, equity, buying local,
local living economies, and sustainable agriculture. It also provides access to grants and
identifies existing and new incentives for municipalities to make progress toward their
actions to become certified and be considered leaders on the path to becoming a sustainable
The Township of Bedminster was chartered on April 4, 1749, by King George II of England. It
was settled by Dutch, German, Irish, and Scottish immigrants and remained a rural farming
community until 1890, when rail services linked Far Hills and Peapack-Gladstone with the
nearby cities. Bedminster Township is a subdivision of Somerset County and three villages
make up its 17,088 acres of idyllic countryside: Pluckemin, Pottersville, and Bedminster.
Because of its beauty and convenient location at a major crossroads of the interstate highway
system, preserving Bedminster’s rural charm and character is a continuing challenge.
Image 4.5: Bedminster Township photos (Courtesy of The Bedminster Township, New Jersey Web site)
The Open Space-Farmland Preservation Committee was formed to conserve, preserve,
and enhance New Jersey’s natural environment. The Committee realizes the value of and
need for preserving Bedminster Township’s open space and sustainable agriculture and is
dedicated to recommend strategies and initiatives which ensure open space preservation,
land stewardship, and agricultural sustainability. So far, the Committee has succeeded
in maintaining twenty-three percent, or 3,898 acres, of Bedminster Township’s land.7
This dedication to land preservation, historical conservation, and sustainable living has
significance in the success of the transformation of one of its farms, known as Redfield
Stables, from horse stable to event space.
Image 4.6: Atlas of Somerset County, New Jersey, circa 1873 (Courtesy of The Historical Society of the Somerset
Image 4.7: Redfield Stables (Courtesy of Gaines Meredith Mimms)
Redfield Stables is situated on 52.552 acres of land on picturesque Lamington Road in
Bedminster, New Jersey.8 It is a beautiful stable of Federalist design built circa 1920 for
Emily Contee Stevens by William Wade
Cordingley. The two-story stable of timber
frame construction is structured around
a courtyard and notable for its archways,
columns, decorative moldings, and rusticated
Image 4.8: Character-defining features of Redfield Stables
(Courtesy of Gaines Meredith Mimms)
Emily Stevens lived in a house behind the stable with her companion, Miss Maud Eden,
who had previously been a governess with the Stevens family.9 Emily bred and sold hunter
horses at this farm for almost fifty years. An avid rider, she also rode her horses in local
competitions, gaining some notoriety, both for her talent as a horsewoman and for the
performance of her horses.10
The property was purchased by Ernest Rodenbach circa 1975 when Emily Stevens died, and
is still owned by the Rodenbach family today. For the past twenty-five years, the Rodenbach
family has rented the stables to barn managers, who use the building and its nearby structures
to board horses and teach riding lessons. There is a pre-existing farmhouse to the east of
the stable and other farm buildings have since been added. Unfortunately, the stables have
not been maintained very well and the original building is, in fact, covered in aluminum
siding. Many of the original sliding stall doors have been replaced by less authentic but
also less deteriorated hinged metal doors. Yet, even with these changes, Redfield Stables
has not forever lost its unique character nor its historical significance. It is a beautiful and
interesting, but old and rundown stable whose history can be celebrated in a new way.
Much has been written about the famous Stevens family of inventors, engineers, and public
servants who has been called America’s first family of invention. Although they have long
been associated with Hoboken, New Jersey, several members of the Stevens family established
summer residences on the thriving Bernardsville mountain colony in the late 1800s. Namely,
the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Colonel John Stevens, a visionary engineer
and pioneer in the development of steamboat and railroad transportation. Colonel Stevens,
who was both an inventor and an entrepreneur, became interested in the use of steam power
for transportation in the late 1780s. Soon, he designed a steam engine with a vertical boiler
more advanced than seen in previous experimental steamboats. Looking for a means to
protect his ideas, Colonel Stevens was instrumental in getting Congress to enact the first
United States patent laws, and he received one of the first patents to be issued. Although his
dreams of establishing a Hudson ferry service were hindered for a time by a man named
Robert Fulton, who had garnered a legal monopoly on Hudson River steam operations, five
years later, he and his son designed the first steamboat to successfully venture onto the open
ocean. He also came up with many other brilliant ideas besides the use of steam power,
including the design of New York City’s first water-supply system in the 1790s, using mains
made of hollowed-out pine logs and a design for “floating stages” in the river beyond the
wharf line to quarantine the sick during the yellow fever epidemic of 1795, which preceded
the concept of floating hospitals.11 Some concepts he developed would not evolve until after
his death, such as the internal-combustion engine; a bridge over, with a tunnel under, the
Hudson River (now known as the George Washington Bridge and the Holland Tunnel);
and, during the war of 1812, he proposed the first iron-clad vehicle with a revolving gun
turret, which would actually later be designed by his son and constructed during the Civil
War. Also in 1812, Colonel Stevens published a treatise on the future of transportation. He
reasoned that steam powered railroads would make canals, which were then favored by the
country’s political and financial interests, obsolete. In an effort to sway public opinion, the
colonel and his son, Robert, built a circular track on which they ran a “steam carriage” they
had designed and built.12 It was the first American-built steam locomotive.
Another of the colonel’s sons, Edwin, whose children and grandchildren constituted the
family’s Bernardsville branch, was also an inventor and businessman. He invented the
“Stevens plow,” a cast-iron plow with a moldboard that prevented dirt from sticking to it;
the “closed fireroom” system of forced draft air that increased a steam engine’s efficiency;
and the American vestibule-style railroad passenger car with a center aisle and doors at
each end.13 He was responsible for managing the family’s Hoboken estate and other business
interests from an early age and, in 1868, left a large endowment and much of the land from
the family’s estate for a school, which was established two years later as the Stevens Institute
of Technology, the world’s first college devoted to engineering.
The inventive spirit of the Stevens family continued in future generations and specifically to
Edwin’s son and namesake, Edwin Augustus Jr., known to the family as Ned. He developed a
double-ended, propeller-driven ferryboat that could be stopped more quickly and efficiently
than previous verions of double-ended paddle-wheel ferries.
In 1896, Ned and his wife, Emily Contee Stevens, bought nearly forty acres in Bernardsville
from his brother and built an enormous cedar-shingled house with fifty rooms that was
designed to resemble the summer resort
hotels of the era, featuring high ceilings
and French doors. Although they sold
the home in 1904, Ned and Emily did
Image 4.9 (left): Residence of Ned and Emily Stevens, as built circa
1896 (Courtesy of New Jersey Country Houses: The Somerset Hills, Volume
Image 4.10 (right): Ned and Emily Stevens’s second Bernardsville
house (Courtesy of New Jersey Country Houses: The Somerset Hills,
Volume 1)
not permanently leave the area. In
1911, they bought another property in
Bernardsville, which Emily retained
until 1925, seven years after Ned’s death.14 Emily Stevens then moved to Bedminster, into
a farmhouse designed and built for her by William W. Cordingley, now known as Redfield
Although the Stevens family is best known for its inventions and engineering expertise,
later generations of the Bernardsville extension of the family made their marks in the
world of politics and diplomacy. The Stevens’ niece, Mary Picton Stevens, and her husband,
financier and diplomat Ogden Haggerty Hammond, had moved into Ned and Emily’s cedarshingled home with their three children four years after Ned and Emily had sold it. Ogden
Hammond, who was elected to the local council and the New Jersey Assembly, also served
as ambassador to Spain from 1926 to 1929.15 His legislative and diplomatic experience must
have made an impression on his daughter Millicent, who later gained national recognition
as a public servant under her married name, Fenwick. Millicent Fenwick settled in the
family home in Bernardsville. After fourteen years as
a writer and editor at Vogue magazine, she began her
political career.16 She was the first woman elected to the
Bernardsville Borough Council, in 1958, and went on to
serve in other positions in local and state government.
In the mid-1970s, she was elected to the United States
Image 4.11: Millicent Fenwick lights pipe at
desk, April 1970 (Courtesy of Bettmann for
Corbis Images)
House of Representatives, where her strong moral beliefs prompted Walter Cronkite to
call her the “conscious of Congress.” She became a celebrity of sorts when she was used as
the model for the aristocratic pipe-smoking Lacey Davenport in the popular comic strip,
Doonesbury. After leaving Congress, she was appointed ambassador to the United Nations
Food and Agricultural Organization.17
William Wade Cordingley, born in 1885, was the eldest in a family of six. His father was a
successful woolen merchant in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was born and raised. He
attended the Volkman School in Boston and achieved a Bachelor
of Arts, cum laude, from Harvard College in 1907. By the end
of his liberal and classical studies at college, William planned
a graduate program in architecture at Harvard. His father had
promised him a “Grand Tour” of Europe upon graduation, and
from this he brought back to Harvard the great architecture he
Image 4.12: William W. Cordingley, 1907
(Courtesy of Harvard College Class of 1907:
Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Report, 1932)
had seen.18 During his expansive travels he searched out many
of the great buildings of Europe. He saw fine architecture of the
past in London; Bath with its Roman remains and famous row houses; the great cathedrals
of Canterbury, Salisbury, and Paris; the Palace-Hotel in Milan; and finally the architecture of
Venice. After his extensive travels concluded, William returned to his architectural studies
at Harvard for a year, however left again for two years, perhaps to earn funds for further
study. In 1910, following those years of unconfirmed whereabouts, he did return to Harvard
for another year, but left in 1911 without receiving a graduate degree.
By 1912, Cordingley was employed by the firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, one of
the world’s largest architectural firms engaged in the design of cathedrals and churches. In
1913, William was licensed to practice architecture in New Jersey. He came to Mendham,
a neighboring town to the Somerset Hills, in 1914 as an architect for the firm to design the
convent and school buildings of St. John the Baptist. Among many other local projects, he
also worked on the colonial part of the American wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
in New York. He also apparently designed several stage sets and may have been involved in
making two parade floats.19 While in Mendham, William Cordingley became mayor twice:
once from 1935 to 1936 and again from 1941 to 1942.
William was also a specialist in restorations of historic buildings. Recognition as a regional
historian came with his participation in founding and becoming the first president of the
Ralston Historical Association in 1941, an organization whose purpose is “the acquirement,
maintenance, and improvement of the premises known as the “Ralston Post Office” at
Ralston, in the Township of Mendham Township, for its perpetuation as an historical site.”20
His involvement in the Association increased his interest in local history and restoration.
With his typical sense of sarcastic humor, he signed a letter to the editor of a local newspaper,
The Mendham Chester Tribune, “Yours for deeper research locally, Wm. W. Cordingley.”21
He was one of the instrumental men in maintaining the building, and was not only
president for ten years but a member of the Board until his death. William Cordingley died
in November of 1965 when a car struck him while he was crossing the street. Ironically, this
accident occurred at the intersection where a traffic signal had been removed, at his urging
as mayor.
William’s architectural interests and proclivities are all indicated in the pocket sketch
books he kept. “Polycleitus said, ‘Success in art is attained by exactness in a multitude of
arithmetical proportions.’”22 This quote is taken from William’s pocket sketchbook, number
two. As this quotation and others found in his sketchbooks show, he was fascinated by
questions about the proportions of structures. Over the years, William also assembled an
outstanding architectural library. In 1991, a complete list was made of all the books then
in the Cordingley library. It had 2,143 items. “He devoted
considerable study to Vitruvius, having in his library some
twelve editions of that author’s works, including the famous
‘Como’ Vitruvius. He also made a study of Palladio, and
of the English Palladian architects Inigo Johnson, William
Kent, Colin Campbell, and others.”23 In 1995, thirty years
after William Cordingley’s death, a selection of his book
collection was donated to the Rotch Architectural Library
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It included
Image 4.13: William W. Cordingley, age 80,
1965 (Courtesy of Robert D. Stevens)
Vitruvius’ Ten Books of Architecture in Italian, Spanish,
Dutch, German, and English; volumes by Claude Perrault; A Treatise on the Five Orders of
Architecture; and The Gentleman and Farmer’s Architect by T. Lightoler.24 The contents of
his library show that his professional interests focused on Classical and Renaissance design,
and his sketchbooks support that his preferred design style was also derived from such
models. The absence of any modern concepts in his book collection and sketchbooks also
reveal how little he noted nor was interested in the modern architectural movements of the
thirties, forties, and fifties, years during which he was still an active architect.
As made clear by William’s book collection and sketches, he was inspired by Classical and
Renaissance architecture. William Cordingley’s traveling experiences while he studied
at Harvard no doubt influenced his architectural
interests and style. His earlier works, such as the
convent and school buildings of St. John the Baptist,
the commission that brought him to Mendham,
followed Gothic tastes, but his later commissions,
Image 4.14: Ye Olde College at Newtowne, 1936.
An ink drawing of a conjectural reconstruction by
William W. Cordingley, 1933 (Courtesy of William W.
Corgingley’s file of working drawings of Olde College)
such as Redfield Stables, would rely on ancient
Roman and Greek elements.
Emily Stevens must have at least been introduced to the basics of engineering, having
married into such a technologically innovative family, but there is no indication that she was
knowledgeable about architecture or even if she had any inclination to a particular taste.
Since Redfield Stables was designed and built specifically for her, she must have provided
some input for the style, but there is no evidence to support this assumption. However, as
an upper class woman living in a priveleged society, she probably enjoyed the designs and
decorations that presented her as a woman of discernment. In the late eighteenth century
and early nineteenth century, after the American Revolution, Greco-Roman Neoclassicism,
known in America as the “Federalist Style,” was a non-English architectural style that gained
popularity in the United States because it allowed Americans to assert their independence
from England.25 The style also happened to have extensive popularity in the upper and
middle classes in the late eighteenth century. Even though it had fallen out of fashion by
the 1920s, perhaps William Cordingley’s interest in all things classical coincided with Emily
Stevens’s preference for refinement, which determined the Federalist design of her home
and stables.
Regardless of Emily Stevens’s interest or lack thereof in architecture and design, William
Cordingley felt strongly about the concepts of symmetry and order, particularly the
influence they had on architectural thought. The Roman architect Vitruvius, whose Ten
Books on Architecture was a major part of William’s collection, provided a basis for his
and countless others’ examinations of classical Roman buildings and ideas and for a more
rational, scientific way of thinking. He wrote of “utilitas, firmitas, and venustas,” which
translates to usefulness, firmness, and beauty.26 Vitruvius’s books were translated during the
Renaissance, when a new interest in and appreciation for the classical traditions of ancient
Rome and Greece developed, and they provided systematic instructions about the orders
of architecture. In his own works, Andrea Palladio, who studied and later illustrated a
translation of Vitruvius, emphasized basing form on simple mathematical and geometrical
proportions to achieve ordered and balanced architecture. One approach of his was to use
mathematical relationships analogous to the rules of harmony in music, according to the
geometric ratios of simple whole numbers.27
The eighteenth century witnessed another return to direct forms and proportional
relationships, which was likely triggered by the first English translation of Vitruvius’s Ten
Books on Architecture in 1715.28 William Kent, another famous face in William Cordingley’s
expansive library, was an active promoter of Palladian ideals during this era. Kent designed
a number of country houses following the proportion and clarity of form of Palladio’s
designs. Direct contact can also spread architectural thought. During William Cordingley’s
travels abroad, he saw and studied many built examples of Greco-Roman Neoclassicism
from the eighteenth century.
At Redfield Stables, the Palladian influence is clear in the minimum of decorative detail and
the directness and functionality of form. In fact, the buildings Palladio designed the most in
terms of number were farm villas. He devised a variety of plans that were simple in layout,
proportionally composed, and functionally practical. Order and devotion to classical detail
also govern the overall design concepts of the stables at Redfield. Symmetry, although not
always exactly executed or perhaps sacrificed to renovations through the years, was clearly a
leading design principle. There is a mathematical relationship that exists between elements,
often appearing in multiples of or including the number three. The white walls accent the
structural form, revealing spaces that are architecturally simple. Architectural elements,
such as archways and doors, frame the scenery. The decorative molding that is used is
simple and geometric, such as the keystones above the archways.
A major architectural feature of Redfield Stables are the columns enclosing the courtyard.
Vitruvius named the column as the basis of architectural structure, from where the entire
system of proportion derived. In classical styles of
architecture, the various column types fall into one
of the five classical orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian,
Tuscan, or Composite (see Image 4.15). Vitruvius
began to formulate the proportion of the parts of
the Greek orders, namely the Doric, Ionic, and
Corinthian. Palladio later further delineated the
Roman versions and additions, including the
Tuscan order, which became part of the vernacular
Federalist style and whose columns line the
Image 4.15: The orders of architecture produced by Claude
Perault, 1676 (Courtesy of The University of Otago, New Zealand)
courtyard at Redfield Stables. The Tuscan order is similar to the Doric order in proportions,
but overall it is significantly plainer, with a simple base and an unfluted shaft. Compared to the
other orders, the Tuscan order looks the most solid and has a rustic nature.29 The rustication
of the columns, another feature common to the Federalist Style and Neoclassicism, also
emphasizes their solidity.
The Stevens family, architect William Cordingley, and the principles behind the Federalist
design of Redfield Stables each provide insight to and inform the process of design
development. The conceptual basis for its design is founded from the philosophies of
historic preservation, sustainable design, and most importantly,
their fundamental
connection: social sustainability. Knowledge of event design and the capabilities of horse
stables to transform themselves will translate its current condition into an environmentally
and aesthetically modernized yet distinctly recognizable version of its past self. Its new
purpose will highlight its place in the community and inspire lifestyle and philosophical
changes towards societal responsibility.
A Story About the Project
“Design is the human capacity to shape and make our environment in ways that satisfies
our needs and gives meaning to our lives.”1
—John Heskett
Image 5.1: Schematic Diagram of Redfield Stables revitalization (Courtesy of author)
The reuse of an historic building should generate excitement and spark dialogue and
curiosity. The newly revitalized spaces of Redfield Stables will transform the stories of its
past in terms of its contemporary condition as a sustainable event space, while the use of the
venue for cultural purposes will help to emphasize continuity.
The most advanced and best-suited sustainability and conservation ideas emerging around
the world will be featured in the design. While these innovations should be practically
invisible, so that they do not compromise the nature of the stable, they are also there to
inform, teach, and inspire guests and visitors and should not be hidden from view completely.
The sustainable events that take place within will promote environmental stewardship and
social responsibility through collaborative efforts, balancing economic, environmental,
and community objectives. In turn, these events will inspire new and engaging ideas that
lead to further economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental well-being. The
story of the stables’ revitalized spaces will maintain the integrity of the original structure by
purposefully placed emphasis on its character-defining features. Thresholds and aperatures
and their decorative moldings are of particular architectural significance in a stable, as they
are in most buildings. Here, it is their even repetition and order that is remarkable.
The additions and changes to the space will excite visitors about the design so they will feel
eager to be a part of its present and its future. The design will exhibit a contemporary and
comfortable sense of lightness and natural brightness, and an added sense of drama will
be created with a double-height, centrally located entryway within an arch that mimics
the east and west wing arches. The entrance leads to the courtyard, which serves as the
central event space. From there, the program will follow a symmetrical layout that studies
the relationship between public and private spaces. Rather than considering the proposed
design as a separate space within the original structure with its own distinct purpose, they
will be in collaboration and complementary to each other.
Event spaces require a separation of public and private areas that allow various levels of
access; the relationship and transitions between them informs the layout of the proposed
design. At the same time, symmetry and mathematics are historically significant design
elements that must be maintained. Certain components of the interior spaces are static,
whereas a few offer more versatility. The stage requires convenient access to a green room
and dressing room that remain invisible to guests, which limits their placement. The stairs
and elevator demand an accessible and central location in relation to the courtyard. In
addition, areas at each end of the north “wing” can accomodate the kitchen and meeting
rooms, the designs for which entices people through the space and educates them about the
concepts of and techniques to achieve environmental and social sustainability. Realizing
static components such as these is an effective step toward planning for an open floorplan,
which accomodates the flexibility of designing for a variety of social events, each with its
own space allocations and set of considerations given to its desired function.
As the central focus of the property, in terms of both the organization of the landscape and
buildings as well as the proposed design, the courtyard will be the primary event space. The
design for a temporary stage within the courtyard is based off research of Colonel Stevens
and his designs for “floating stages” in the Hudson River to quarantine the sick during the
yellow fever epidemic of 1795. The hydraulic platform, when not in use, will be virtually
invisible, hidden underground and blending in with its natural surroundings. In order to
accommodate for inclement weather, a tenting structure that utilizes the same mathematical
sequences for its attachment as the architecture of the stables, will be put in place, ideally in
such a way that it can be easily constructed and disassembled. Technology that is familiar to
equestrian vernacular will be used for the tent’s connections and fastening.
Centralizing the areas that allow public access nearest the entrances to the courtyard enables
those that require more privacy to spread out along the periphery of the building in such a
way as to draw guests and visitors toward them, through the public and semi-private spaces.
The interior event space will be afforded the flexibility to reconfigure the layout and sizes
of its divisions through a system of recycled horse stall doors that act as panels, suspending
from the ceiling using a track system that allows them to slide and pivot throughout the
space to close off or open up areas as needed. On one end of the stable is the viewing kitchen,
which will allow guests to see how the food is prepared, promoting healthy eating habits and
a sustainable culture. The other end will house the meeting room, which attracts attention
by its feature wall. This layout also facilitates the movement of arrivals and departures,
which will funnel through an opened arch at the north end of the building. Small changes
are made to the exterior to return the stable to its original symmetrical layout, such as the
removal of the storage shed that was added to the north east corner. Also, the north-facing
wall to the left of the main entrance was pulled forward approximately three feet at some
point to create more space for larger stalls; this is now moved back to its original location to
mirror the placement of the wall to the right side of the main entrance.
The design of the event space complements the original structure and purpose of the stable
yet at the same time, announces its new direction. It is a reflection of the commitment the
stable as an event space has to making environmentally-astute choices that preserve the
natural and built environment and enrich the community.
Sustainable events are a relatively progressive idea, but the philosophy behind them is to
attract sustainable-minded individuals and novices alike. They are a means of educating
individuals about the concept of social sustainability to inspire collective social and
environmental responsibility. The design of the event space fully integrates sustainability as
its mission and accomplishes the flexible needs of its various functions. It is an innovative
and adaptive design that evolves to meet the needs and desires of each of its users. Employing
contemporary aesthetics that achieve simple and sophisticated comfort and environmentally
astute choices that enhance the character of the original structure, provides the integration
of functions required for a range of events. The stables as an event space have an active role
in fostering socialization within the community; the emphasis on strengthening the sense
of community and maintaining social resources enriches its program and sets a strong
example of socially sustainable design and socially responsible action.
Maps of Somerset County, New Jersey
Map of New Jersey Counties (Courtesy of digital-topomaps Web site)
Map of Somerset County Municipalities (Courtesy of
Somerset County, NJ Web site)
Storied Stables
existing first floor
/16” = 1’-0”
existing design
existing second floor
/16” = 1’-0”
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
exterior elevation — existing north wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
section — existing west wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
section — existing north wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
existing design
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
Storied Stables
exterior elevation — existing west wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
Storied Stables
perspective — main entrance
elevation — proposed west wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
site plan
/16” = 1’-0”
elevation — proposed north wing of courtyard
/8” = 1’-0”
proposed exterior design
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
Storied Stables
first floor & courtyard — event design
/8” = 1’-0”
proposed courtyard & event design
perspective — catering kitchen
perspective — courtyard
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
Storied Stables
main entrance
meeting space
open gallery
public women’s
perspective — meeting space
perspective — entrance
public men’s
guest suite 1
kitchen z
first floor
/8” = 1’-0”
proposed first floor design
green room
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
Storied Stables
open gallery
open to
technical booth
& office
guest suite 5
guest suite 3
guest suite 4
guest suite 2
second floor
/8” = 1’-0”
dining &
perspective — bar area
elevation — second floor
/8” = 1’-0”
proposed second floor design
Meredith Mimms | CCA+D
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