23. May 2016
The Sharon Fieldhouse is the latest project by the design/buildLAB, an experiential learning program based at Virginia Tech until 2015. It is also the fourth design/buildLAB project that World-Architects has featured as a Building of the Week. Like the other projects* the fieldhouse contributes to an area in need, in this case giving the little league teams in Clifton Forge, Virginia, a building with restrooms, concessions and seating for parents to watch the games. Marie and Keith Zawistowski, who founded and direct the design/buildLAB, answered a few questions about their latest project.
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
The design/buildLAB is an experiential learning program in which third-year undergraduate architecture students collaborate with community leaders and industry experts to conceive and realize built works of architecture that are both educational and charitable in nature. While previous design/buildLAB projects grew from identifying a community need and working to find funding, the Sharon Fieldhouse project was introduced to the design/buildLAB by The Alleghany Foundation, a community foundation who was already investing in the project.
Please provide an overview of the project.
The Sharon Fieldhouse sits on a hillside defined by a series of terraced baseball fields. It marks the land as a linear incision that cuts across the site and serves as a primary axis of pedestrian circulation. The building is fissured into three elements to allow the site’s circulation to weave its way in and around the occupied spaces. The entrance to the Fieldhouse is an arrangement of massive concrete steps, serving as a playful procession and an informal gathering space. Spaces within the incision are delineated by vertical steel screens that fan-out and range in density to create varying levels of intimacy. Monolithic pivot doors heighten awareness as one passes from the extreme openness of the site into the intimacy of the restrooms and concession kitchen. White laminated glass bathes the interior spaces with even natural light. Nested between the concession kitchen and the restrooms, a shade pavilion slips out of line, offering a cool repose overlooking the field. The openness of the screens allows breezes to pass through as well as views to the surrounding mountains. The pavilion space steps toward the field with a series of faceted grass seating terraces, inviting spectators to sit and enjoy the game. As the incision reaches the forest, at the edge of the site, it gently dissolves into a sunken rainwater filtration marsh. In the evening, points of white light emerge as a constellation on the oiled oak ceiling. In this rich natural landscape, transparent forms and subtle details imbue the architecture with a peaceful presence, a magical atmosphere for community gatherings.
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The Sharon Fieldhouse is the first design/buildLAB project that is not in a dense town center. The limited resistance of an untouched hillside site presented a unique challenge in terms of defining relevant departure points for the design. Ultimately the decision was made to mark the earth with a “linear incision”, a kind of datum which could be used to define a scale and to organize circulation. In effect, the “liner incision” was the creation of a site within a field.
Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
The Sharon Fieldhouse project takes the position that environmental stewardship is neither a commodity nor an aesthetic; rather, it is a value underlying all good architecture. This position holds that the environmental problems of our age are problems of disposability and over consumption, which will not be solved by consuming more products, regardless of how “green” those products may claim to be.
The Sharon Fieldhouse addresses environmental leadership through cultural and physically durability. The project grew out of a clearly identified long-term need for a youth recreation facility and is built primarily from locally sourced long service life materials and time tested detailing. Carbon steel and float glass are manufactured in regional mills and are 100% recyclable. White oak, among the densest and most resistant of the Appalachian hardwoods, is sustainably harvested and locally sawn. Low consumption plumbing fixtures, LED lighting and smart fans limit water and electricity usage. A swale ensures that storm water returns slowly to the water table. And finally, the angle and density of the sun-screen increases from east to west in order to invite the warming morning sun and to shelter from the hot afternoon sun.
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
The project is constructed from 4 primary components, each in a distinct material: concrete plinth, carbon steel screens, wood roof panels and white laminated glass envelopes. Shop drawings for all members of each component were extracted from a computer model, facilitating precise and efficient off-site prefabrication.
All concrete formwork was prefabricated and transported to the site to pour the porch terraces, knee walls, stairs, and slabs. The structural steel bents and screens were pre-welded using a series of jigs and bolted into place on site, allowing the frame to be easily and efficiently assembled. Drop from major structural elements was used to fabricate furniture such as picnic tables and a kitchen island. The trapezoidal wood roof panels were shop-built, craned into place and bolted to the steel structure. The translucent glass envelope was panelized, nested, coded and factory cut to minimize waste and expedite on-site installation.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.
*Previous design/buildLAB projects featured as Buildings of the Week:
Clifton Forge, Virginia
Clifton Forge Little League
Marie Zawistowski, Architecte DPLG, Keith Zawistowski, AIA, NCARB, GC
Landon Williams, Molly Vaughan, Mitchell August, Ryan Myers, Julia Vasquez, Xiao Fu, Ellie Burns, Forrest Bibeau, Mykayla Fernandes, Kellen McGinley, John Iaconis, Chanel Carter-Harris, Barbara Dior, Nancy Redenius, Tom Powers
Setareh Structural Engineering
VT Sustainable Land Development Initiative
Hammond & Mitchell