Barns designed by John Blackburn, (www.BlackburnArch.com)
the nation’s premier designer of equestrian structures. Situated
in a picturesque valley in upstate New York, the nine-stall barn
complex rises dramatically in the landscape of the 464-acre farm.
Arranged around the ruins of abandoned grain silos, the buildings
take advantage of prevailing summer breezes and shelter the interior
spaces from harsh winter conditions. The buildings are clad in galvanized
corrugated metal with translucent sections for natural light.
The design process of the Charlotte Valley Farm barns
by John Blackburn:
The program for the 464 acre farm was based on the owners’
desire to create a Paso Fino breeding/training operation. Their
current residence had been constructed in 1992, but there was no
horse barn or horse operation existing. The residence was located
on the north side of Route 40 that bisects the property. The major
portion for the horse operation was located on the relative level
crop lands between Route 40 on the north and Charlotte Creek to
There were two existing silos on the property from
a former dairy barn. The old dairy barn had burned and all that
remained were the silos and a long corrugated metal milking shed
with an attached equipment shed. The owner was interested in keeping
as much of the original character of the property as possible so
we decided to reuse the existing milking shed in some way. The original
program included a barn with 12 stalls, space for a tack room, tool
room, feed room and wash stalls. Also included was an office and
lounge space. The master plan was to also include a large 100 x
200 indoor riding arena with an observation area so they could use
and train horses year round. Also included in the program was a
heated round pen and two service storage structures for hay, bedding
and farm equipment.
A special request of the owners was that they wanted an indoor
arena but did not want to look out at a huge "box" blocking
their view of the farm and the surrounding hills. They also felt
strongly that the silos were iconic and important memories of the
former dairy barn and its contribution to the heritage of the farm
and the local community and felt they should be salvaged. The owners
also expressed concern with the winter snows and how best to design
the new farm to work for all seasons especially the snow coverage
that can appear in late fall and last until early spring. I agreed
and his request became the mainstay of our design approach. Good
environmentally responsible site design is critical to the success
of any horse farm and is a primary goal in John Blackburn's equine
An existing low slope metal shed that had been a later
addition to the west side of the existing metal milking shed had
to be removed as it was not well constructed and could not effectively
The existing milking shed was extended to include office, restrooms,
tack room and wash and groom stalls. The interior was gutted and
converted into a series of stalls. A series of roll up doors were
located along the entire east side so the building could be opened
in the late spring, summer and early fall to provide adequate natural
ventilation as the summer wind would blow up the valley from the
southwest and over the sloping barn roof.
The location of the existing shed in the valley and its orientation
perpendicular to the prevailing summer breeze enabled us to use
the Bernoulli Principle (a scientific principle John Blackburn tries
to incorporate into all my barn designs) to pull air in, through
and up out of the barn. A series of Dutch doors were located along
the west wall to provide additional sources of natural ventilation
and natural light as well as access for the horses from their stalls
to turn outs attached to the south side of the barn. Larger turnout
paddocks were located to the south. The layout worked well for the
environmental needs as well as the operational needs of the farm
and provided a healthy and safe facility for the horses.
Skylights were incorporated into the sloped roof over the stalls
to add additional light during winter when the roll up doors were
closed. The office/lounge was located at the north end of the shed
row of stables for ease of access from the entry road and for security.
The indoor arena was located on the east side of the barn shed row
with a covered connecter to the barn so horses could be led from
the barn to the arena during winter with protection from the elements..
Placement of the arena provided additional protection from winter
winds that might blow down the valley from the north and east.
The arena was developed in an unusual shape that was designed
specifically to address the owner's concern for a large "box"
in view of his residence and the accumulation of snow that could
hinder the operation of the farm during winter. The arena was designed
with largely a single slope roof across the length of the riding
surface so any snow that did accumulate on the roof would slide
off to the north and pile up along the north end of the arena. Furthermore,
by sloping the roof to the east it would reduce the scale of the
structure as viewed from the residence in summer months.
The ground surface along that north side of the arena was designed
with an oversized French drain field that would allow the snow bank
to gradually melt and drain underground to the Charlotte Valley
Creek that cross the property along the south side in close proximity
to the arena, Furthermore, the long north facing slope of the arena
was to include a large skylight built into the roof that would warm
up from interior heat. It aids in visually reducing the scale and
size of the arena as it was viewed from the residence. All roof
slopes were designed to direct snow to a location that would not
hinder the winter operation of the farm and in fact provide areas
where snow could be pile up or be plowed and allowed to melt naturally
as the spring thaws came without adversely affecting the operation
of the farm. The arena included a large observation area along the
north end that was visible as one entered the barn/arena area from
the north and located directly opposite the farm office. It provides
some additional human scale to that end of the arena.
For the round pen we continued with the corrugated metal concept
and adapted a Butler grain elevator framing system with a series
of high windows for natural light and ventilation. Access to the
round pen was provided by a covered connecting link from the barn
that was in fact an extension of the barn aisle.
I believe the design intent of the entire horse farm complex was
achieved at a very reasonable cost. The design in my opinion has
held its own over time and remains a distinctive and unique structure
today as the day it was completed. Its shape, simple forms and exterior
materials respect typical agricultural context of the Charlotte
Valley as well as those of the original farm. The silos have remained
as iconic forms in the valley seen by anyone who drives along Route
Blackburn and Associates designed a functional barn that has been
very successful for the owner. The barn remains one of Blackburn
and Associates most unique barn designs and is a representative
example of their design creativity, attention to the existing and
historic context, attention to the functionality of the farm operation
and aesthetic needs of the owner.
Concept design for an arena were never constructed. The arena would
have make an impressive impact on the farm that would complement
the scale of the silos without overshadowing them. The location
of the indoor arena would sit where outdoor arena is situated today.
See concept drawings here.
John Blackburn, AIA
Heated office space with stall shower bathroom and laundry room.
This view demonstrates the proximity of the house to the barns.