A Sper­ryville land­mark evolves, leav­ing its orig­i­nal char­ac­ter in­tact

Rappahannock News - - NEWS - By Wil­liaM sMith Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

While tak­ing a stroll down Main Street in Sper­ryville, it doesn’t take long to re­al­ize that one of the pri­mary charms of this vil­lage is that it is easy to get a sense as to how it looked one hun­dred years ago.

His­toric struc­tures line the street in var­i­ous styles, sizes, ma­te­ri­als and col­ors. While many of these build­ings are con­structed in sim­i­lar ar­chi­tec­tural styles, there are sub­tle yet vis­ually pleas­ing vari­a­tions on a stylis­tic theme.

Over time many of these vil­lage build­ings have evolved to fit the ever-chang­ing needs of the cur­rent day so­ci­ety and yet have re­tained their in­her­ent beauty found in their func­tional sim­plic­ity. One spe­cific build­ing that falls into this cat­e­gory is the old Sper­ryville Epis­co­pal Church, which is now the Stonewall Abbey Yoga and Qigong stu­dio.

Orig­i­nally built to house a con­gre­ga­tion, its uses have changed to a book­store, café, and now a yoga and qigong stu­dio.

This adap­tive re­use is a great ex­am­ple of sustainability in architecture. While the func­tion of the orig­i­nal build­ing has changed, the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter has re­mained in­tact. This con­cept for­ays into the fact that large cities, towns, and small vil­lages are never static but are ever grow­ing and adapt­ing, while not nec­es­sar­ily in terms of size, but also in how they are in­hab­ited and through the di­rect needs of those who in­habit them.

The lat­est in­hab­i­tants of what is now the Stonewall Abbey Yoga and Qigong have suc­cess­fully grown their busi­ness to the ben­e­fit of Sper­ryville and all of Rap­pa­han­nock County. The lat­est de­vel­op­ment to this busi­ness is soon to be the ad­di­tion of a gym and mas­sage stu­dio.

Space re­quire­ments for these new uses also re­quire the ex­pan­sion of the ex­ist­ing struc­ture. Adding more space onto an ex­ist­ing struc­ture, es­pe­cially an his­toric one, is al­ways a chal­lenge. This new ad­di­tion sits far to the rear of the open site ad­ja­cent to the Abbey, in­her­ently be­com­ing sub­sidiary to the orig­i­nal build­ing.

In pay­ing homage to the old architecture, the new build­ing’s mass­ing, form, ma­te­ri­al­ity and pro­por­tion are di­rectly in­spired by the old church. White clap­board sid­ing and a green stand­ing seam metal roof tie the new build­ing di­rectly to the old. New rooflines con­nect to the ex­ist­ing and the mass­ing of the new space re­mains shorter and sec­ondary to the church at the fore­front.

New large win­dows play into the con­cept of flood­ing the space with nat­u­ral day­light, just as the orig­i­nal win­dows do for the Abbey space. While the plac­ing of the win­dows near­est to the ex­ist­ing build­ing start out in an even rhythm, as they move away they be­come more asym­met­ri­cal as a nod to break­ing away from the orig­i­nal.

In an­other nod to his­toric church architecture, a small “chapel” cre­ates a book­end to the build­ing. The pro­por­tions of the new end chapel are a di­rectly scaled down and sim­pli­fied ver­sion of the orig­i­nal church. An ab­stracted ver­sion of the high pointed arch win­dow which di­rects the view and gives an up­lift­ing sense, is added to the new gable of the ad­di­tion.

The style of Carpenter Gothic which per­tains to the his­toric church, is sim­pli­fied and ab­stracted for the new ad­di­tion, which al­lows the new to have a di­rect con­ver­sa­tion with the old, while not tak­ing away the promi­nence and im­por­tance of the ex­ist­ing architecture but by com­ple­ment­ing it. Mod­ern architecture isn’t al­ways about mak­ing a state­ment, but can be a unique ges­ture that strength­ens the sur­round­ing con­text and gives new life and en­ergy to an his­toric streetscape.

Wil­liam Smith, who owns a home in Sper­ryville, is the found­ing prin­ci­pal of the ar­chi­tec­tural firm Stu­dioSmith — www. stu­dio­smithdc.com — es­tab­lished in 2008. He has taught sev­eral architecture stu­dios at The Catholic Univer­sity of Amer­ica and is pub­lished in nu­mer­ous trade pub­li­ca­tions.


Stu­dioSmith, LLC's, fi­nal ren­der­ing of the new Stonewall Abbey well­ness cen­ter and gym, which is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion on Main Street in Sper­ryville.

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