“Who was your architect?”, “who was your builder?” Aside from “is there any bread today?” these are two of the most frequently asked questions here at Little Ghent Farm. Some visitors have barely left their cars and these words, or a variation of them, are spilling out. In this post we have asked Neil, Adam and Bill to share with us some of their thoughts.
By way of background, the farm has been up and running now for two years. The two preceding years were all about planning, preparing the ground and construction. Our starting point was an overgrown property, not farmed in nearly forty years, dotted with dilapidated or collapsing buildings which we had no choice but to remove (see below). Happily we decided early-on to reclaim and recycle as many of the old materials as we could. Nothing that was usable left the site.
After a couple of months worth of discussions and meetings in late 2102 we asked this team to help us bring our vision to life. Beyond their talents and hunger for the task what we liked about Bill, Neil and Adam is that they, unlike many others, were ready to walk the farm’s 75 acres at any time, to develop a sense of place and to evolve the vision. We started with a clean sheet of paper but were faced with the considerable challenge of determining what a modern farm would do, the specific functions required and what it looks like in terms of buildings.
While there is plenty more to do we’re very proud of what has been achieved here thus far and of the creativity and commitment Neil, Adam and Bill (plus his team) brought to the farm. Onwards!
Please introduce yourselves
Bill Stratton (left in main photo) – principal of Bill Stratton Building Company, a custom residential construction company based in East Chatham, NY.
Neil Pelone (centre in photo) – founder and principal of NPARCH, a boutique design firm, based in Troy, NY specializing in custom residential, hospitality and adaptive reuse projects.
Adam Petela (right in photo) – architectural designer and project manager for NPARCH.
What was the most challenging aspect of the Little Ghent Farm project?
Neil – for this project we had the challenge of locating a laundry list of programs within multiple buildings, those buildings’ relationships with each other and responding to the character of the site (e.g. views, topography etc.).
Adam – reconciling the functionality and authenticity of a working farm with the aesthetic appeal of modern design.
Bill – the windows. We tried to keep the construction moving forward without the windows installed due to unforeseen delays with the manufacturer. This coupled with the fact that they were the largest windows we had ever installed required some very careful execution.
What would you say are some of the specific challenges involved with building a modern farm?
Neil – the modern farm is a new idea that is still evolving and therefore does not have a defined trope. The ones we work on are about a lifestyle that, along with food production, tends to involve more variety of activities. Understanding the seasonal ebb and flow of the farm operations added a layer of consideration.
Bill – interfacing with today’s building codes. In the past a farm would have a fair amount of leeway on codes. Today they need to comply with the same codes as non-agricultural projects. This has a big impact on budgets.
What are your secrets for success when working as a team with owners/architects/builders?
Adam – being upfront and honest is key.
Neil – making sure all team members are heard. For the owners, it is important to understand what they are getting. For builders, communication is important – integrating their input helps instill pride in the work – everyone benefits.
Bill – I am still looking for that secret but certainly it is important to be open minded and take ownership of the process and, more importantly, identifying the hippopotamus in the room!
If there is one aspect of the Little Ghent Farm project where you feel you put your own personal stamp on it, what is it?
Bill – I feel that assisting with the design of the construction method and being involved with the interior decisions are where I was able to put my “stamp”.
Neil – I would like to attribute the outcome to the process, the team and the context in which we work.
In a few words how would you describe the characteristics of the best clients to work with?
Adam – trusting and/or patient.
Neil – engaged and curious.
Bill – respectful of and understand the process.
What popular design or building trends are you seeing in Columbia County/The Hudson Valley, NY at the moment?
Neil – we are seeing a lot of clients increasingly interested in becoming more connected with their land and experiencing the land in different ways. Design wise, this means bringing the outdoors in and the the indoors out. Nods to the history of the region appear in re-interpreted gable/barn shapes with modern detailing, the use of reclaimed everything and… black which seems to be everywhere these days.
Adam – there is a trend towards authenticity. People now want to experience real building materials and systems, not decorative beams or walls.
Bill – trends in our area seem to be focused on energy efficiency, clean lines and a very strong desire to use reclaimed materials.
What is your dream project?
Bill – hmmm… a golf course would be quite exciting.
Adam – I would love to design a small to mid-sized sporting arena. There are some amazing design opportunities with those spaces.
If you weren’t a builder/architect what would you be?
Neil – a ceramic artist.
Adam – an archaeologist or paleontologist (who wouldn’t want to be Indiana Jones?).
Bill – I would be in the hospitality business with a focus on golf.
To see more of their work or to catch up with Neil, Adam and Bill directly follow the links above (in intro section) or call ..
Neil & Adam – 518 326 3911
Bill – 518 392 4200