Article by Astoria Jellett


You don’t expect an architect to teach you about authenticity. Then again, with William Haskas, it seems inexorable.

Five years ago, Haskas was talking to a farmer in agricultural Perrysburg, New York about an 1860s farmhouse slated for demolition. Haskas grew up in Gowanda, an adjacent manufacturing town, where the factories had closed and so did all the houses, as people chased opportunity elsewhere. The symbiotic relationship between Gowanda and Perrysburg destabilized with their economy: families left, Wall Street speculated, and the remaining farmers strained to break even. Ultimately, the community began to lose its identity.

The farmer agreed to let Haskas save the farmhouse by trying something new: +FARM. +FARM is Haskas’ solution to the relationship between architecture and the rural condition, answering the question: “What role could architecture play in a town where ingenuity, innovation, and design were once the community pride?”

In a unique partnership that allows participants access to the house and land to work on projects that directly impact the estate, +FARM brings students and young professionals together with craftsmen, fabricators, architects, digital specialists, and educators. They design their ideas in the field, away from the insulation of the design studio, immersed instead in the character of the community they aim to save.

“It's about the importance of authenticity,” Haskas says. “Authenticity requires participation, and fortunately we can't control the outcomes - no matter how hard we try to manage risk through pre-packaged experiences.  +FARM is making a case to cut ties with the theoretical anxiety of control, and the endless list of "isms" to exchange in the currency of ideas.  What is at stake for students is the authenticity of their contribution, not in mastering the latest beta release or excel schedule.”

 In the Winter 2014 intensive four-day workshop, six participants designed and constructed a sweat lodge to withstand a blizzard. Taking the project from digital design to tangible (sweaty) reality, they erected SoftCore-HardForm, whose rigid stainless steel exterior protects a soft cedar core. The pentagonal knife design divides wind, shrugs off snow, and gives hardworking farmers a place to warm up and relax after a long day’s work.

That’s the kind of ingenuity, innovation, and design that creates an authentic experience.


Article by Astoria Jellett

To learn more about +Farm visit their website.