Iron Studio, Penland School of Arts and Crafts
Penland, North Carolina
Frank Harmon and Charles Holden

The director of this Appalachian-based school of crafts asked us to design a blacksmith/iron studio with as much space and natural light as possible within a $480,000 budget. She wanted the building to embody the spirit of craft making by clearly revealing how it was made. Classes of 12 students would use the facility to create pieces ranging from a delicate iron teaspoon to a five-ton steel sculpture.

The rolling, wooded site is nestled among the Roan and Black Mountains. To minimize the impact on the site, we designed a long, thin building composed of simple, durable materials: steel, concrete block, glass block, and polycarbonate glazing. A bridge crane runs along the building’s central axis. Twelve coal-fired forges occupy the perimeter of the voluminous workspace. Six stainless steel flues vent forge smoke through the corrugated iron roof where a ridge skylight fills the studio with light. Roll-up doors open the interior to the surrounding mountains. Two decks and a large, south-facing porch provide outdoor workspaces. And every object in the building shows the marks of its makers’ hands: Every bolt, weld, and other evidence of construction are exposed, thereby honoring the spirit of craftsmanship. Many visitors to the Iron Studio have mentioned that it reminds them of a cathedral.

2001 AIA NC Honor Award
2003 AIA NC Merit Award
2003 AIA SAR Honor Award
2004 Business Week/Architectural Record International Honor Award
2004 AIA NC Honor Award
2005 AIA Triangle Honor Award