In May 2020, Saltonstall will begin construction on an addition to the studio building that will provide universal access to artists and writers with disabilities and to the community during public events.

Saltonstall: A Universal (Re)Design

We received our building permit! And in the past week, a team arrived to disassemble our shed and alcove. (See photo below. They’ll be repurposing the wood and keeping it out of the landfill.)

In the coming weeks, as construction in New York States re-starts, we will break ground on an inclusive addition and partial renovation of the studio building using universal design principles.

With this renovation and expansion, we will create an accessible live/work space for any artist or writer as well as an accessible space for public functions that includes an accessible kitchen and guest bathroom. Our architect helped us envision how we could accomplish both of these objectives in a single structure without interfering with our founder Connie Saltonstall’s original house.

studio building with attached shed being disassembled

Inclusive | Accessible | Equitable

We have made many small institutional and logistical changes to our operations in recent years in order to become more inclusive to all artists and writers. Our lack of physical accessibility has remained our most significant challenge. Multiple physical barriers made it impossible for an artist or writer with physical disabilities to attend a residency or other public programs.

This project will fundamentally change that dynamic. In addition to the artists and writers who will be able to apply for the funded residencies, any artist or writer in the community will be able to benefit from our space for retreats, a program which has grown dramatically in recent years.

Every member of the community will be able to enjoy and benefit from the readings and open studios at our open house events. Any local teacher could attend the free teachers’ residencies.

Our Architect: Caroline O’Donnell

Architect Caroline O’Donnell has been working with us on this project since she made her first visit to the colony in September 2015. She is a licensed architect and sole principal of CODA.

In addition to running her practice, Caroline is a senior professor of architecture and director of the Master of Architecture program at Cornell University. She teaches courses on environmentally responsive architecture, material re-use, sustainability and design and has an undergraduate specialization in bioclimatics. 

CODA has won several prizes, most notably the MoMA PS1 Young Architects’ Program, and in 2015, Caroline was named one of the top 30 female architects in the world by Azure magazine. 

Caroline has been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, so she already had a deep understanding of the mission and purpose of residency programs when we first met. Combined with a design attitude and values that align with ours, Caroline was the perfect fit for this project.

What’s Being Added?

In the image above, the grey-shaded area represents the lower level of the studio building. Here are the key elements of the design:

  • The existing studio will become the new accessible living space and will include an accessible bathroom (with shower.)
  • The existing one-bedroom living space will not change at all and can serve as private accommodations for a personal care assistant as needed.
  • The new accessible spaces include: a large studio, a common dining/gallery area, a full kitchen, and a guest bathroom. These spaces will allow us to hold public events that are accessible to the community.

These two renderings (above) show the common gallery/dining area from two different perspectives: one looking through a pivoting wall into the new artist studio, and the other looking towards the accessible kitchen and guest bathroom.

Commitment To Sustainability

A number of key design elements make the addition a sustainable and environmentally sensitive building:

  • Siding on the east side of the existing studio and south side of the new addition will be a charred wood (‘shou sugi ban’) that will never need to be painted or stained.
  • The existing cladding on the east side of the existing studio will be removed and re-used on the back side of the new addition.
  • The new addition will be heated and cooled exclusively by high-efficiency electric heat pumps which take advantage of the energy we’re generating with the solar array installed in 2017.
  • The new facade will extend over the south end of the existing building, creating a sun-shading device during the hottest months of the year.
  • Recycled materials, like tiles, will be used wherever possible, especially in the bathrooms and kitchen.
  • Transom windows and a skylight will provide abundant natural light with little passive solar gain.

As We Get Ready

We have been deeply focused on the ways in which we can continue serving artists and writers during the construction months. To start, we are offering special (one summer only!) weekend retreats for residency alumni.  

Please stay tuned for more information about other public programming in the Ithaca community. We can’t wait to share our journey with you, and we hope you’ll keep in touch.