East Hampton Town Hall - Robert A.M. Stern Architects
by Michael J. Crosbie
There are many approaches to sustainable architecture, and one of the most efficient and effective is the reuse of old buildings.
Often, adaptive reuse is not as sexy as designing a high-tech green building from scratch, with its full complement of the latest gizmos. But reconceptualizing a building that already exists is often the most sustainable choice, because such structures contain embodied energy — the energy that was invested in their original design and construction.
Employing that embodied energy in a repurposed structure helps us to achieve new architecture with very little new energy investment.
The modest yet elegant new town hall for East Hampton, New York, near the eastern tip of Long Island, is just such a building. When you first see it, you might think that it has been there for a couple of centuries, set back from the old Montauk Highway.
Actually, this new town hall complex was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) using pieces of historic fabric that had been relocated at least once before, and that have now found new life as town offices and meeting rooms, thanks to some ingenious design interventions.
The story of these buildings starts in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were constructed on different sites around this historic region. In the 1970s, these four timber-framed structures — Hedges House, Hand House, Bridgehampton Barn, and Parsons Barn — were among those acquired by the heiress Adelaide de Menil and her late husband, Ted Carpenter, who relocated the buildings to a property on East Hampton's Further Lane and restored them to form a tidy compound.
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