Buildex Blog: Community facilities from the municipal perspective

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by JOC News Service

Darryl Condon, a managing partner at HCMA Architecture + Design, acted as the moderator for the "Creating great community facilities – from the municipal perspective" session at the Buildex Vancouver conference on Feb. 16.
Buildex Blog: Community facilities from the municipal perspective

The panelists for the session were Danica Djurkovic, from the facility planning and development department of the city of Vancouver, Walter Francl, the principal at Francl Architecture, and Scott Groves, the manager of civic facilities at the city of Surrey.

Djurkovic began by looking at ancient architecture and comparing it with today's buildings, which she maintained "tell a story even today."

She said government has a responsibility to lead by example, and hold themselves to higher standards. She said the city fo Vancouver tests codes and regulations before implementation and stressed the importance of life cycle design.

There are about 650 community facilities in Vancouver, Djurkovic said, and the city evaluates the service needs of these facilities. Many projects are through partners such as school boards, and she stressed the most expensive facilities are the ones owned, operated and maintained by the city such as pools and similar centres.

The scale of Vancouver has changed, and it has grown "faster and for the better," she said. The community facilities inherited from the 1950s were mostly neighbourhood based, Djurkovic said, and when reevaluating it is important to keep the current scale of those neighbourhoods in mind.

The program to evaluate the seismic condition of buildings prioritized those buildings with a higher population, such as schools. The city has also committed to having an active seismic project at all times, she said.

Six community centres have been designated as primary response centres, with all comminuty centres to be used as secondary response centres in case of an emergency.

Francl said each community centre is a "piece of urban fabric that should represent and be characteristic of the area it's a part of."

He spoke of the Creekside facility created for the 2010 Olympics. He said it was created under great financial and time pressures, but has become a focal facility for the Olympic Village neighbourhood.

Trout Lake Community Centre was a complicated facility, Francl said, because they had an entire park to work with.

"But you rapidly find out the neighbourhood is a peat bog around the lake, so where can we put the building where we won't have to tear it down again?" he said.

Grove said Surrey was well known as a suburb people commute in and out of , but the new model is a city centre that is much more vibrant and is actually larger than the city centre of Vancouver. The area around it is planned to be middling "European style" density as well, Grove said.

The city of Surrey has a huge land base, as large as Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond combines, Grove said, and population growth is happening south of the Fraser in Surrey and Langley.

"We'll become more and more important as the population grows," he said.

Grove touted the City Centre library as a great piece of architecture and community facility that is "for everyone to use regardless of status."

The Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre was a community hub "before the community got there," Grove said. He said the building acts as an anchor to build the community around. Making great looking architecture isn't enough, he said, because the facility has to be something the community wants to use. This has occurred with the centre, he said, with over 3,000 people making use of the facility.

Condon spoke about the Clayton Community Hub, which he said underwent a "design principle session" before starting the project. His firm also went out to the public for input, and remarked that branding is important to engage the public and get feedback. They created an "ideas fair" which gave families a chance to take their kids to activities while still getting valuable input.

The building consists of three large volumes, arranged near a significant arterial road, but also borders a forest, where there are fluid spaces that extend the forest and blend it with the facility. The tree canopy "embeds" the building into the site, Condon said, but currently they are designing the governance structure and how the community will come together "before we think about walls."

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