Barn Raising // Inspirational Artisan Hub Opens in June

By Lara Dunning

When it came time to plan its new 25,000 square-foot building on Three Tree Lane, the nonprofit Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) wanted an architect that deeply understood principles of sustainability. They didn’t have to look far. BARN enlisted acclaimed architect Johnpaul Jones, who has called Bainbridge home for more than 50 years and whose work is rooted in the integration of nature, culture and community.

“I try to bring the natural world, the animal world, the spirit world, the human world—that comes from my Choctaw heritage—into the projects that we are doing,” said Jones, who volunteered his time to create a building that is not only sustainable but inspirational.

Jones incorporated many thoughtful features into his design, some of which are natural to the centrally located site, like the 300-foot-deep geothermal springs, whose temperatures stay at a constant 50 degrees. On extremely cold days, the heat source will supply 60 percent of the facility’s heating, and even more on temperate days. And instead of having one thermostat for the entire building, each of the facility’s 11 studios will have its own controls so that rooms that are more sedentary (like jewelry making) can turn the heat up, while rooms that are more active (like woodworking) can turn the heat down.

Building materials—such as flooring, plywood, adhesives and paints—were another focal point. Each was carefully chosen to protect indoor air quality, and windows and ceiling fans were incorporated to circulate and bring in fresh air.

“The design challenges for this project were to not overdesign,” said Jones, “but to keep it simple, make it utilitarian, and at the same time be exciting with lots of natural light.”

To take advantage of the power of the sometimes elusive Jones faced the majority of the roof westward and designed it to be solar panel ready. For natural daylight, large windows face eastward, and LED lights with occupancy sensors will ensure lights turn on only when rooms are active.

Natural elements include landscaping with a pond fed by storm water, low-maintenance native plants and rain gardens. The wetland will embody the rhythms of nature with singing frogs in warmer months and rasping reeds on windy winter days. In the outdoor spaces, the fiber arts studio will grow plants to produce natural dyes and basketry material, and the kitchen arts studio will grow herbs for culinary classes and the canning of seasonal harvests.

“Johnpaul Jones designed our building to exist in harmony with the environment,” said Mark Nichols, BARN’s executive director. “And our mission of craft, creativity and service helps to create a more resilient community by teaching people to make things and encouraging them to use those skills to serve their community.”

Over the years, BARN’s community service has taken on many forms, like constructing a garden shed for the Ferncliff affordable housing neighborhood, using the 3D printer to create replacement knobs for a stove in a boater’s galley, and creating podcasts on a variety of topics like foraging, sustainable design and writing. For BARN’s new facility, which officially opened June 3, volunteers abounded; over 100 woodworkers signed up to help build 300 cabinets.

By providing a home to a wide variety of artists and creating a space where new artists’ passions will hatch and grow, BARN is nourishing one of Bainbridge’s greatest assets.