Coming Home To The Cows

“We wanted to ‘live the theme’ we were asking the owner to endorse,” says Redman, who credits the park district for allowing the design team to push the creative envelope. “The client let us take the reins, respecting our approach all the way through the interior-design process.” The recycled barn siding was sourced locally for the recreation center’s main lobby space. Inexpensive fiberglass roofing panels formed the textural, translucent wall dividing the lobby and the children’s play area and added a rustic touch by revealing the supporting structure within.

Large-scale photos of barnyard “vignettes,” complete with close-ups of barnyard creatures, placed in children’s spaces, and a play apparatus consisting of a miniature barn with a hay bale also reflected the farm sentiment.

At once informative and transformative, the new recreation center contains visual references to the past that belong to the current setting. Reflecting on the ambitious application of the barn theme to the facility project’s design solution, Redman concludes, “We wanted people to get the feeling that they’d stepped out of suburbia and into another place.”

Barbara Dutton writes about recreation architecture projects for Williams Architects Ltd. For more information about the firm, visit Dutton is a communications professional with 15 years of experience in marketing communications for professional service firms, she holds a B.A. in Journalism from Northern Illinois University, and she has studied Historic Preservation at Northwestern University.


Finding A Theme

Public-recreation agencies that are considering building a facility with a theme might look to their immediate locale to spark ideas.

For example, in a “salute” to the community’s naval air-station heritage, the Park Center in Glenview, Ill., contains a natatorium featuring replicas of fighter planes, as well as a water slide-staircase designed to look like a flight-control tower.

The Splash Station water park in nearby Joliet, Ill., contains buildings that imitate railroad structures–such as a train station and a roundhouse–inspired by the park’s proximity to a rail line that served a gravel plant associated with the area’s quarry history.

“Park and recreation agencies looking to build a facility that projects a theme might work with their design team to identify a local feature–whether natural, historical or other–from which to draw inspiration,” suggested the late Michael Williams, AIA, who, as the founder of Williams Architects, had worked with clients to establish a theme to drive a project’s design.

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