Friday, February 28, 2014

Van Cortlandt Journey Insider: An Interview with Susan Arann

What inspired you to take on this project?
I live with an avid golfer.  Over the years, this has helped me appreciate the beauty of a golf course and understand the importance of the "19th hole" for every golfer.  When I started on Vanny, I took inspiration from other golf courses, like Pebble Beach, but mostly I found my inspiration at Van Cortlandt itself. 

How did you and your team start your designing process?
It is always a challenge to preserve a historic site or re-interpret what is there to connect with the here and now.  We started by researching Van Cortlandt.  When working on a property with a famous past, you have to be very sure to honor its history.  Past patrons of Van Cortlandt will want to feel the comfort of familiarity while potential patrons will want a fresh space that can become their new haunt.

The team researched a lot and articulated that information through artwork, photos and narratives adorned throughout the space as a way to honor Van Cortlandt and share its rich history.  We even searched the attic and basement for pieces that might inspire us and found a great original parks sign. We wanted to use as much of the past as we could to marry with new pieces. 

We worked closely with the architect hired to restore the exterior of the building.  We reviewed his plans and knew we had something to build on.  Our interior would be focused, as he was, on restoring the history and creating a revived future for Van Cortlandt.

What were your favorite parts of the project, old and new?
Re-purposing the original lockers in the Pro Shop is my favorite restoration part of the project.  The rich history ingrained in them could never be replicated. 

Introducing the new stone fireplace is my favorite addition to the clubhouse.  As we began brainstorming what new pieces would help enhance the infamous club, the idea of adding this focal point was immediately agreed on by the team.  

Who was your favorite famous Vanny golfer?
There are so many famous people that golfed at Van Cortlandt - Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, the Three Stooges - but I think my favorite golfer would have to be "Long" Jim Barnes.  He won the first PGA Championship which he teases he had to win twice.  In the Spring of 1916 the New York Newspapermen's Golf Club put on the Professional Golfers Championship, which Barnes won.  Later that year, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy, which Barnes also won.  He is quoted crediting Van Cortlandt as hosting the original medal tournament in the U.S. for Professional Golfers.

What do you hope for New Yorkers who visit Van Cortlandt?
I hope that they will see the beauty that my team and I fell in love with.  When we walked into that space, we were in awe of its history and inspired by its potential.  We hope our design creates a warm, comfortable space that envelopes them in the club's rich history and keeps them coming back. 

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