Guest Cottages for Musicians Enable Relaxation and Creativity
Thoughtfully designed cottages strike a chord for the musicians of this storied Vermont festival.
Located in the rolling hills of Vermont’s Green Mountains, the annual Marlboro Music Festival is a prestigious retreat that has influenced the world of chamber music since 1951. Every summer for seven weeks, students and professional musicians gather on the small campus of Marlboro College to rehearse and play music. Over the years, a housing shortage for senior artists caused the festival’s organizers to look to a 15-acre parcel of land adjacent to the school. It’s on this bucolic acreage that five modest-yet-inspired cottages were built.
When Joan Soranno, FAIA of HGA Architects and Engineers, was chosen to design the cottages, she initially envisioned the structures to be contemporary in style. “But so much of what the festival is about is this kind of picturesque, New England farmhouse look,” Sorrano said. “To switch gears would be playing against what people think about Marlboro Music.”
Taking her cue from the buildings that dot the campus, Soranno “riffed off the simple, gabled classic Cape Cod structures” to integrate the cottages. But unlike the white painted buildings on campus, the new cottages were reimagined in natural cedar to blend with the surrounding woods and allowed to weather to a pale grey over time.
Another important consideration in the siting of the cottages and the window placement was to maximize natural ventilation since there is no air conditioning. Cross ventilation through the untrimmed casement windows positioned mostly on the east and west sides of the structures allow natural cooling to occur. “It’s not like it gets to be 100 degrees,” Soranno said, since “the cottages are up in the mountains.”
Since the purpose of these cottages was to house world-class musicians who would rehearse within their walls, an obvious critical element to their construction was the need for exemplary acoustics. To that end, Soranno consulted with musicians for guidance and as a result she steered away from using drywall as well as flat ceilings and added area rugs. All these steps helped significantly with sound absorption.
“The musicians have said that it is really nice to play music in these cottages,” she said. Which, in the end, puts these cottages squarely in tune with their environs and its notable occupants.