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A Classical Musician’s Retreat | Torreya State Park, FL


Torreya State Park is located at the tip of the Panhandle in Florida, situated along the east bank of the Apalachicola River. The project site is located in a clearing in the forest, just south of a narrow passageway between two large hills, providing a sense of seclusion. The site drops steeply down to the river on the east side, and slopes down gently from north to south. To the west and south of the site are dense, wooded areas and a small creek.

A client has requested the design of a secluded musical retreat center for 20 musicians and a mentor, which is to comprise individual living quarters, a performance hall, a dining space, and a small administrative space; a total of 8,000 – 10,000 square feet. The client requires that the design should take advantage of passive strategies.


The living units are grouped by five, and enclose three sides of a terraced courtyard, which provides community gathering spaces. Each individual unit opens up via a rear entrance into nature, allowing each musician a small, private outdoor space. Groups of units are connected with a common walkway along the courtyard, and each unit has a screened entrance porch for added privacy. The roofs have generous overhangs for improved shading and rain protection, and the units are equipped with operable screen windows for ventilation.

Enclosing the west side of the courtyard are the performance hall, dining space and administrative space. The performance hall is sunken into the ground, offering a view across the exterior ground plane. The courtyard-side of this performance hall is heavy and established, suggesting that a certain rigor and discipline should exist with the musicians. The river-side is lighter, feathering off into nature and suggesting outward movement. A porous condition within the enclosure and space of the dining area suggests the gathering of inspiration from both nature and the musicians, and allows for a conceptual communication throughout the site.

The enclosed outdoor terrace is the heart of the project, creating an environment that caters both to the privacy of the musicians and the gathering and sharing of ideas. A strong overall condition of overhangs not only provides shelter from the elements, but creates a series of impromptu gathering spaces, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior, and strengthening the idea of community.

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