Life changing design

Life changing design

Most park and recreation professionals have a deep understanding of the transformative power recreation has in the communities it serves. The benefits of family cohesion, better health, socialization, community pride, sports enhancement and good sportsmanship all reach deep into the core of better quality life for all. To assure the best customer service possible occurs amidst rising expectations, and dwindling resources, professionals must use every resource at their disposal to implement increasingly better programs at the right price; in the right location; at the right time; and with the best instructors, staff, and equipment available. The same holds true of facilities that are expected to be clean, well maintained, and spectacular in the amenities they offer. Providing the very best, well designed facility is at the core of creating a great guest experience.

Beyond the brick and mortar of a Community Center, and oftentimes hidden from the naked eye, lay elements of the building that when designed properly, make the difference between having an experience of confusion and monotony or one of pure joy and invigoration. In the upcoming months, we will discuss the fundamentals of 12 make or break principles of facility design. When implemented by an expert, they will provide your users with an incredible experience that will last for decades.

1. Separation of Diverse Groups

The first of these principles is the separation of diverse user groups. The recently opened Estes Valley Community Center in Estes Park, Colorado will serve as a case study.

Recreation and community centers invariably host a wide array of diverse, and sometimes incompatible, user groups simultaneously. Families, seniors, spectators, staff and athletes all vie for space under one roof. Great care must be taken to analyze the timing and use patterns of each group; to study the program areas required; to account for the adjacency requirements; and to provide a planning solution that divides groups that may require separation without isolating them from the rest of the facility.

Oftentimes, the solution requires separate parking scenarios with individual entries. The original program for the Estes Valley Community Center called for the senior center to be separated from the recreation center. Instead, the Lower level entry with dedicated parking serves as the entrance to the senior community rooms and library. These well-appointed Community Center Rooms boast a breathtaking view of Lake Estes.

In times of increased need for flexibility and multi-use spaces to satisfy growing demand, dedicated spaces are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Designers are challenged to provide spaces that allow for a wide variety of uses and are appropriately sized and located, while still maintaining the privacy some user groups have come to expect. Each facility, its patrons, and goal sets the table for the planning exercise. In the conceptual design phase of your project, make sure to take inventory of these diverse user groups; their times of participation; and the adjacency of the areas they occupy. Make certain that your design professional is creating balance in the consideration of all these factors when assembling the spaces to assure maximum programming capability.

The sensitivity to separation of users goes beyond program spaces and extends into common spaces such as locker rooms, art studios, classrooms, and multi-purpose spaces. Seniors, families, gender sensitive users, and those with special needs look for increased numbers of private cabanas and gender neutral locker rooms. Community/meeting rooms may be adjoined by senior program space to offer areas for low-cost lunches, performing arts, community gatherings, band practice and card clubs within one space throughout the day. Planning for the needs and uses while maintaining privacy where needed is a fine balance, but when executed with precision creates happy customers, and a much improved bottom line.

Stay tuned! Next time we will discuss facility flow.