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The Ivy League: An Artist’s Welding Workshop Covered in Vines in Upstate NY


The Ivy League: An Artist’s Welding Workshop Covered in Vines in Upstate NY

January 29, 2018

A derelict, 19th-century wooden barn is a brilliant place for an artist’s studio. If you add a little love, and a lot of retrofitting, as architects Maria Berman and Brad Horn did for a client who is an artist in New York’s Hudson Valley, an empty barn can become a workspace, wood shop, and art library in no time. (See the Art Studio here.)

But no matter how much the barn has been modernized, it’s no place for welding—a step required for some of the artist’s larger pieces. So when Berman Horn Studio (members of the Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory) was asked to add a separate, indestructible space for welding, they knew immediately how they would make a new concrete workshop complement a 19th-century vernacular: They simply poured concrete walls and a roof in the shape of an old barn.

Photography by Rush Jagoe, courtesy of Berman Horn Studio.

Above: The welding studio is made of reinforced concrete, which first was poured to make three sides of the rectangular base (one side is glass), then poured inside a barn-roof-shaped form in one go.

Pouring the concrete evenly required five individual holes—the small “necks” left over from that process are visible on the studio’s roof line. “Typically, they would be removed,” said architect Maria Berman, “but we decided to leave them both as a remnant of the process of making the building and because they reminded us of the chimneys they resemble. They’re also somehow really cute, which is not what one typically associates with a concrete building.”

Above: Boston ivy grows on the facade. “We always envisioned the building having a significant green component,” said Berman, to integrate it into its bucolic setting. “Initially, we thought about moss, but the sunny location wasn’t conducive to its growth.”

Deciduous Boston ivy, was chosen for “the seasonal diversity of seeing the ivy green out, grow berries, turn colors, and finally shed its leaves in the winter.”

The architects designed a narrow planting bed, a pocket of soil that borders the studio, to give the ivy a spot to  take root. The vine is a strong grower, notes Berman, and needs to be trimmed around doors and windows. (When these photos were taken, the ivy had been growing for about two years.)

Above: At one end of the studio is a gabled wall of gridded steel windows with embedded lights and an operable door. The studio is lighted by two long rows of off-the-shelf fluorescent hanging lights.
Above: Small holes on the studio’s interior walls mark the places where the concrete form was tied together during the pouring process.
Above: Steel hooks and bars keep shop tools like clamps and rulers in place. Exposed copper tubing is beautiful and necessary: It carries pressurized air for cleaning shop surfaces and materials.
Above: The concrete welding shed is located behind the larger studio, wood shop, and art archive housed in an old barn remodeled by Berman Horn.
Above: “The ivy softens the concrete of the building, but in a way makes it more apparent in the places where it remains visible,” said Berman.
Above: To encourage the ivy, Berman Horn anchored a grid of stainless steel wire to the exterior walls to create a trellis for the vines.
Above: The trellis was necessary in the beginning, said Berman, “but the ivy found its way pretty quickly.”
Above: Because Boston ivy attaches to a surface “via small suckers along its branches, rather than roots that dig into the material,” explained Berman, it’s not destructive to the surface.
Above: The ivy cover forces the studio to shift with the seasons: Boston ivy leaves “become a vibrant purple red in the fall, and the bare ivy branches on the concrete are also beautiful in winter,” said Berman.
Above: “We love the constant push pull between the organic qualities of the ivy and the stark strength of the concrete,” said Berman.

For more petite enclosures, see:

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various vines and climbers with our Vines & Climbers: A Field Guide.

Additionally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for ivy with our Ivy: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various ground cover plants with our Ground Covers: A Field Guide.

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