Public Spaces That Speak - Design Bureau

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Public spaces like the Terry Trueblood Boathouse (above) and the Spring Creek Sports Complex (below) respond to their surroundings. The boathouse has hinged walls that open to the lake, while the sports complex welcomes athletes from the field.

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Public Spaces That Speak

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

By Maggie Lange 
Photos by Cameron Campbell / Integrated Studio

When discussing ASK Studio’s approach to designing public spaces, principal Brent Schipper quoted Victorian-era art and architecture critic John Ruskin: “We want two things from our buildings: We want them to shelter us, and we want them to speak to us—to speak to us of whatever we find important and need to be reminded of.”

It’s the second part of Ruskin’s statement—the language of architecture—that drives this practice in Des Moines, Iowa, to design public structures like the Terry Trueblood Boathouse and the Spring Creek Sports Complex, which speak to the people who use them. “All clients want buildings that speak about their community,” Schipper says. “Our favorite part is finding that voice and language.”

For the Spring Creek Sports Complex, Schipper used the rural setting to create an agrarian-style space. The complex caters to youth sports, providing concessions, restrooms, and picnic tables that serve the participants of more than a dozen soccer fields. The building opens to the fields outside, inviting the families inside. A steeply angled roof seems to slice through the building, giving it a sense of energy and movement.

“[The roof] speaks of shelter from great distances. It is about making a large gesture on an even larger landscape,” he says. ASK principal Mike Kastner used similar principles to design the Terry Trueblood Boathouse, but changed the tone of the architecture to complement the lakeside landscape. A public park structure on the edge of a lake, the building houses rental boat storage, as well as restrooms and concessions. Kastner used natural materials, particularly stone and wood. “It’s the stone that anchors it and the wood that creates the drama,” he says. Hinged walls open the space to the outdoors, framing the view to the lake. Like the sports complex, the boathouse also features a sleekly angled roof. “The pitch is greater,” says Kastner, “and the single slope gives a structure with a small footprint a greater presence in the park landscape.”

“The beauty is that the buildings are so different, because they speak to different people and different places,” Schipper says. “It is a true thrill to know you helped a community find a voice through a building.”

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