US Building of the Week


17. July 2023
Photo: Michael Moran
Project: Annex, 2022
Location: Williston, Vermont, USA
Architect: Birdseye
  • Principal Architect: Brian J. Mac, FAIA
  • Project Manager: Peter Abiles, AIA
Artist: Richard Erdman
Structural Engineer: Engineering Ventures
Interior Designer: Brooke Michelsen Design
Contractor: Red House Building
Site Area: 20 acres
Building Area: 1,720 sf
See bottom for Important Manufacturers / Products.
Photo: Michael Moran
Please provide an overview of the project.

Annex is an artist’s studio for stone sculptor Richard Erdman nestled in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Equally inspired by both the artist’s sculptural language and the agrarian context of the site, it provides a new working studio for creating and displaying work.

In addition to his Vermont studio, Erdman also works in Carrara, Italy, where the marble is quarried and sculpted. Over the past four decades, he has created a renowned body of work that can be found in museums and private collections across the globe. Annex provides a space to continue this celebrated work and deepen its legacy.

Photo: Michael Moran
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?

The structure is defined by a cantilevered shed clad in corrugated Cor-ten steel panels, influenced by the farm’s existing metal-clad buildings that serve as stables, barns, and utility sheds. Structural steel members are exposed under the roof overhang and inside the studio.

A hydraulic loading door with a flush threshold provides rolling access to the main studio space. Inside the door, a jib crane aids in the installation and removal of large-scale sculptures. Steel pedestals with casters allow the sculptures to be both easily moved and elegantly displayed.

Photo: Michael Moran

The interior spaces are minimal and open. A monumental steel shelving display is integrated into the space and window composition. The interior wall and ceiling finishes are black to contrast with the marble sculptures. Custom large scale metal pivot doors open into the white plaster office space and library. A large custom wood cabinet provides storage and maquette display, and a polished concrete floor adds to the durability, functionality, and overall minimalist aesthetic.

Photo: Michael Moran
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?

The studio is built on the grounds of the artist’s residence, a 20-acre working horse farm. The parcel includes multiple agrarian metal structures that function as stables, hay storage, and equipment storage. The project site was established at the northwestern corner of the farmyard to serve as a bookend to the existing buildings and paddocks. A raised plinth elevates the building above rolling pastures, providing distant views of the Adirondack Mountains across the valley.

The landscape design takes cues from the horse pastures. The plinth is captured by wooden guardrails that mimic the fencing of neighboring paddocks. The ground cover is compacted stone that extends to an infinity edge at concrete walls to the south and west, and to a Corten steel edge to the east and north.

Photo: Michael Moran
Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?

Energy conservation and ecological sensitivity are important considerations in the project. The building is all-electric, forgoing any use of fossil fuels on site. Heating and cooling are provided by an electric heat pump system, and ventilation is provided by large doors and operable windows. Natural plaster and Swedish pine tar finishes contribute to healthy indoor air quality. Abundant natural light is supplemented by LED fixtures that are purposeful to the sculptures. The permeable stone surface surrounding the building helps capture runoff and mitigate erosion through the site.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Photo: Michael Moran
Important Manufacturers / Products:

  • Windows: Marvin Modern
  • Hydraulic Door: Crown Doors Single-Swing Hydraulic System
  • Crane: Harrington Jib Crane 1-Ton
  • Interior Pivot Door Hardware: Fritsjurgen M32+SCD Pivot Hinge

Photo: Michael Moran
Photo: Michael Moran
Drawing: Birdseye
Drawing: Birdseye

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