By Phil Roberts…
Ask anyone what they remember about the fun they experienced as a kid and they will likely tell you about a time in a pool, a goal in an arena or a collection of summer days in a park. Such memories are enhanced when the facilities in which they occurred were memorable places they fully enjoyed.
Bruce Carscadden Architect is a design studio based in Vancouver with a keen appreciation for the importance of quality recreation projects in a community.
They take extensive time designing with simplicity and directness. “We spend much of our time establishing the ethic of a project and then being honest with ourselves about how and if an idea holds true to it,” says Ian Ross McDonald, one of the firm’s three principals. They are very judicious with their choices, ensuring that the design consists only of the requisite elements. Every project must be void of excess. Once a framework of essentials is formed, then they use that clarity of thought throughout the project and discover solutions as the design progresses.
McDonald feels that the firm’s rigorous approach to design has cultivated a common spirit and richness across its body of work. “The total result is that while we simplify and edit within projects we build complexity across them and over time.”
Receiving feedback from user and stakeholder groups is one of the methods the firm uses to gauge client satisfaction and to improve upon their success. For example, for many of their institutional clients, durability is often a sought after quality, which is why the firm frequently communicates with clients and building owners as materials reach their end of life. “Ease of maintenance is crucial in recreation complexes especially since users can be rough with facilities, even if unintentionally. Rubber flooring wears out, tiles crack, and light fixtures break.”
“Computers have made this particular part of the discipline easy. We maintain records of each project and every component specified and as a consequence we are often the first call a client will make to ask about replacing a building component.”
The firm measures success by how loved a project is by a community. McDonald believes that when a community takes ownership of a project and are proud of it, that the firm has exercised its duty honourably. ” A well-built building is easily tended for by staff, and treated with care by its users. In the very best community centres a member of the public will stoop to pick up an errant piece of trash. That is success.”
Municipalities from across British Columbia come to the firm to attain such favourable results. McDonald dismisses any suggestion about municipalities with an improved quality of life standing out at the detriment of others, but feels that harmony is still possible. “We don’t subscribe to that false dichotomy. When individual communities do well, so does the region. That’s not to say that there aren’t trade-offs when one city neighbourhood has a pool and another doesn’t, but often there is another quality of life aspect trade.” The firm performs research and facility assessments, where they manage priorities and desires of municipalities seeking to deal with their current and projected needs. Having the role of consultant to municipalities is central to the practice, putting them in a position of master problem solvers of a community. Architecture becomes the link between the overarching ambitions of a municipality and the kids having fun creating memories.
Phil Roberts is the creator of sixty7 Architecture Road.