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Design and Development – A Restorative Relationship with Nature

From the beginning of the River Mountain land development process, we've had 3 goals in mind...

  • Don’t disturb the land and its beauty. Make sure all of our new and renovated structures flow with the land;
  • Be authentic to the property’s south central Pennsylvania roots;
  • Find great partners who share our vision.

With the permitting process now behind us (thank you Southampton Township and Bedford County!) and construction beginning next week, we're on our way to realizing our goals. I thought it would be interesting to let everyone know what we've been up to and where we're headed...

The decision on where to place the retreat cabins and the design of the structures probably took the most time to figure out. Where we ultimately landed was because of the vision of Terry Squyres, Principal at GWWO Architects in Baltimore. 

Terry advised a beautiful spot in a meadow that sits at the base of a hill below what we call “Forest 1”. A stream runs through the forest there, with a beautiful, wild meadow and Warriors Ridge to the east. There was a  reason Terry loved this spot; she had a vision for our cabins that was a game changer. She envisioned 4 modern cabins, each designed with Circadian Rhythms in mind. Each cabin would face east with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for each guest to “wake with the sun” as the morning light rises over Warriors Ridge. Next, she suggested adding individual skylights above each guest’s bunk so they could see the stars as they go to sleep (If you haven’t read our blog about the night sky at River Mountain, please do. I can’t even begin to express how beautiful they are). And finally, each bunk would have its own window facing the woods that could be opened by guests to hear the sounds of the stream flowing nearby. We loved this final design element, as research has shown that proximity to water, and the sound of water, is associated with many positive benefits for the body and mind.

I could go on for days about how cool the cabins are. I really could. I think this quote from Terry for a PR piece she did sums up her vision perfectly...

“River Mountain’s vision inspired us to create an environment throughout the site and buildings that fosters a restorative relationship with nature,” says design principal Terry Squyres, AIA. “Central to that concept is architecture that is designed to reconnect River Mountain’s guests to their natural circadian rhythms, with a focus on natural daylighting, fresh air, and spaces that support the retreat’s daily routines of adventure and reflection.”

The River Mountain team is very thankful to Terry, Alan, Bob, Eric, Al and everyone at GWWO for their wonderful work on our project.

When it came to the next step - choosing a contractor - we wanted to find a group who a) understood our retreat vision and minimal impact construction goals, and b) a group with the craftsmanship expertise to tackle the renovation work on our “Main Campus”. Main Campus includes our registration building, our activity barn (a beautiful 19th century, Mennonite constructed barn), and a historic 1807 log home that will serve as our dining facility.

After a lot of research and interviews, we chose Quarry View Building Group. During our first meeting with Quarry founders and brothers, Ben and Levi King, we knew they shared our passion, and they definitely understood the craftsmanship needed to improve and renovate several of our existing structures. With Amish roots planted in the soil and their expertise in the building and restoration of agrarian structures, partnering with Ben and Levi on our River Mountain build out was a no brainer. 

Below are a couple quotes from Quarry View’s blog that do a great job explaining the historic structures we’re excited to be working on...

“Quarry View will be working with River Mountain on two beautiful, historic structures that will be restored/renovated to accommodate programming needs. The Old Log Home on the property, ca. 1805-1810, is a two-story building consisting of horizontal logs with mud chinking between the logs, small windows, gabled roof and a brick/stone chimney at the east side of the house. The foundation comprises fieldstone with mortared joints. The home sits on a hill above Sweet Root Creek adjacent to one of several natural springs on the property.

The Main Barn on the property was constructed in the late 19th century and is best categorized as a “Basement Barn.” The access points at the basement level are at the gable ends (north and south elevations) with a center aisle running in the middle of the barn, and the building was probably used as a dairy operation. The upper level of the barn consists of wooden beams (some scarf joint), rafters and flooring. The renovated structure will serve as River Mountain’s meeting and activity center.”

And that’s a wrap ... for now.

I can’t tell you how excited our group is as we continue getting River Mountain Retreat ready. We’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress!

If anyone has any questions about this blog or anything River Mountain related, email me anytime at rtyrrell@rivermountain.org or call me anytime at 615.383.0984.

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