While defining the project, i.e. the problem, is paramount to arriving at the right solution, problem solving is at the heart of the design process. This is the primary skill of the design professional and it’s the challenge that keeps us charged and alive with creativity. As we engage ourselves in the creative process, each discipline must reflect on the project needs identified in the charrette then overlay it with the sustainable design criteria identified in the LEED workshop.
The basic geometry of the building has been partially driven by the contours of the site. It is then further influenced by the space needs identified, their grouping, adjacencies and the people/material flow patterns. Then imagine the building with all its spaces rising out of the site as a three dimensional expression of the interior and exterior architectural characteristics that have been defined with the client. Weaving these threads together through an alternating combination of holistic and detailed views of the project is the nature of design.
In response to the site characteristics, the floor planes are set to cascade from the higher north side of the site to the lower south side of the site creating a split level building that has on grade entries at both the upper and lower levels. The massing of the building is pushed to the far north and east edges of the site where it wraps around in a somewhat crescent or “L” shape. This configuration opens the southwest portion of the property so that the building and open site area can address the intersection of Davis and First Street and the adjacent park land. This also provides a prominent view of the building from the southwest.
The basic functional groupings are:
The Visitor Center proper with the high ceiling, multi-purpose lobby/gallery, information desk, gift shop, administrative office, restrooms and storage. These spaces are better suited to the upper level to allow the visitor panoramic views of the park to the southwest.
Park Administration space with reception area, offices (private, semi-private and open) and restrooms. These spaces are well suited for the lower level which does not require as high a volume structure.
Shared Space that includes break room and conference room
Vertical Circulation; stairs and elevator
Support Space; mechanical electrical and communications rooms
One casualty of the original space list was the idea of a café/ice cream shop. It didn’t have a strong justification, it introduced another retail space in addition the gift shop and in the end it was believed by the client that it could become a viable adjacent retail space as a part of the future development of the south side of Muskogee Avenue.
Incorporating Architectural Character and Integrating Engineering Systems
Some of the exterior forms and materials of the building are inspired by the Chickasaw Cultural Center and structures in the nearby National Recreation Area. Sloping standing seam metal and exposed beams will be expressed in the roof structures on the major portions of the building and building entrances. Natural stone and copper cladding will be used on the building exterior, working with the glazing system to form a rich palette of materials integrated in a cohesive design. Sun Shading will be incorporated on the south of the building by a trellis like structure attached to extended roof beams, providing not only shade but also interesting shadow patterns.
The Multipurpose Lobby Area will have a high upward sloping ceiling. Window systems on the north and south side will maximize views through the building and towards the park area to the south. The Gallery space will terminate on the west end of the Visitor Center space with a high ceiling offering flexibility for a variety of artwork and displays. The exterior materials will reappear in the interior, continuing an outdoor-like sense and theme to the building. The native stone and copper wall cladding again is integrated with the glazing system, framing windows and views from the building. Large slate floor tiles will create a rich, durable and natural floor finish surface. Above the high volume spaces of the Gallery and Multipurpose Lobby Area beams continue through the building supporting a rich, exposed wood acoustic paneling as the finished ceiling.
Since the site is not conducive for a ground source heat pump system, the building will be heated and air conditioned by an air to air variable refrigerant volume heat pump system. These types of systems provide the greatest energy efficiency for air to air heat pump systems possible while maximizing the opportunity to achieve LEED points for the Energy and Atmosphere. Domestic hot water for the facility will be supplied with a solar water heating system.
Wastewater for the facility will be separated into two distinct systems. The water closets, urinal and floor drains in the restroom groups will be collected and will exit the building to the municipal sanitary sewer main. The other fixtures and floor drains will be collected in a separate piping system that will be routed to a filter and then a holding tank located in the crawl space. There it will be pumped back to supply the flush valves for the water closets and urinal. This is a grey water system and will be beneficial in reducing both the wastewater requirement for the city and reducing the domestic water load for the facility. The grey water system will be a main component for LEED certification points.
External roof gutters will collect rainwater from the roof and will direct the water to the building rain water storage system where it will be utilized for the irrigation system and an exterior water feature. Overflow drainage will be discharged into the storm water system.
The building lighting system will consist of high energy efficient fixtures throughout. Occupancy sensors will be installed in office and support areas to provide automatic controls of the light fixtures. The exterior lighting will be controlled via a photoelectric sensor and time clock. An on-site renewable energy system will be considered for LEED certification points and will be accomplished using a grid – tie Photovoltaic (PV) system.
The architectural and engineering systems for the Visitor Center are well on their way to being solidified and integrated into a common solution. I will share our ideas for the exterior architectural design solution in the next post. See you there.