PHOTO: PEAK VIEWS LLC
COMM U NIT Y
The design cuts decibel levels from the nearby highway in half
David Polzin Designed to be welcoming to the public while sheltering them from the harsh acoustics of a nearby freeway, the Maryland Heights Community Center has won several awards. We speak to the design principal about his passion for bringing communities together
ust over a year after opening, the Maryland Heights Community Center, near St Louis, Missouri, has won several awards for its sweeping, inclusive design. The 92,000sq ft centre features a 9,000sq ft aquatic centre, a 12,800sq ft gym, an indoor track, a play centre and preschool. Its curved design was born out of the need to shelter users from highway noise equal to that of a jet engine; the form used creates an ‘acoustic shadow’’, almost halving decibel levels inside and creating a distinctive, modern building. Before it was completed, the centre was a 2016 AIA St. Louis Unbuilt Merit Award winner. Since opening, it has won further awards from the AIA, Athletic Business and Contract, and welcomed more than 84,000 members, 38,000 rental facility users, 5,000 seniors programme attendees, and hundreds of children with disabilities in its first six months. David Polzin, design principal for the Maryland Heights project and executive director of design for CannonDesign, recently took time to talk with us about the project, trends in community recreation centre design, and more.
What does the Maryland Heights Community Center offers its community? How does the design support this offer? Fundamentally, the building offers new resources and opportunities for the community to come together. The previous community centre – which was an adapted church – was ill-suited for the variety and quality of spaces the community desperately needed. Maryland Heights Community Center has a gym, weights, and running track, yes, but also space for community meetings, a pre-school, a dedicated seniors’ space, and outdoor areas for a farmers’ market and craft fairs. In these ways, the centre offers wellness, community, connectivity, education and so much more. This building is more than just the sum of its functions. The centre has truly become an icon for the city. It is a forwardlooking building and represents what is possible for Maryland Heights and its residents. The building’s façade is calibrated through its transparency to reveal the dynamism of its wellness and recreation activities, and through its translucency the qualities of a glowing lantern at night. We worked very closely with the city council in developing the design. They believed in the power of this building to be an icon for the community. That group’s desire for something new inspired us to come up with this creative solution. I think ultimately the building is a symbol for the city’s best hopes and plans for its future.