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Casa Saudade

Honeoye Falls, New York

Winner of 2021 AIA Rochester Design Excellence Award

Located in the agrarian countryside south of Rochester, NY, the former Mendon Pony Club, with its remaining 1930s vintage horse barn and equipment shed, sat idle (and horseless) for decades. The new owners envisioned a farmette with an immersive visual connection to the surrounding pastures, their horses, and with nature.

Because the horse barn was laid out to accommodate equine stalls, hay storage and a tack room, it was decided to adapt the adjacent equipment shed into a residence. The five-bay structure with sliding barn doors and dirt floor had been used to park tractors and store farm equipment. It was built into the side of a hill that sloped south to former pastures and on to woods.

The design strategy was to ‘lift’ the barn doors up to create a strategic canopy to cover a new patio and offer the opportunity for a 65-foot long south facing window wall. The canopy was conceived based upon passive-solar principles. Its configuration lets sunlight permeate the residence in the winter, shades it in the summer, provides rain and snow cover, and allows western breezes to pass through. The original barn door windows remained in place, were covered with transparent corrugated roofing, and transformed into skylights.

The floor plan is open with all primary functions on one level. A new concrete floor slab with integral radiant heat was poured. The roof structure was painted white, and due to its height, afforded a loft space on each end. Shed dormers were added for additional head clearance, to bring in light and to provide views. The center space was left open to experience the volume and to accommodate a great room. A simple concrete block mass serves to divide the space and provide the hearth for a wood burning fireplace. A central bifold bay of windows enhances circulation flow and reinforces the connection of inside and outside.

Upgrades to the site included new pasture fencing, new utilities and gravel drives, and an array of solar panels that were installed on the south side of the horse barn roof enabling energy conservation.

An important selling point to the local municipality was how the project stealthily fit a new residence into underutilized existing farm structures. From the road, on the north side, the property remains virtually the same and continues to contribute to the area’s bucolic past.

‘Saudade’, a Portuguese term to describe the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia, was the theme of this project and pays homage to the owners’ animal-loving fathers. The result is a place that allows for animals and humans to seamlessly commune.