LocationFlorence, Northampton, MA, United States
Architect in ChargeElizabeth Morgan, AIA
This 3,300 sqft project serves as a pavilion for community recreation fields in Florence, Massachusetts. The program includes storage, restrooms, a meeting room and a concession booth.
The structures are uninsulated, and only open intermittently during the warmer months of the year. The roof was designed to accommodate a future photovoltaic array, which will provide power to the site.
The buildings provide a quiet backdrop to the activity on the fields, and offer shelter for the players and spectators gathered there. Strung between each structural module is a built-in bench, inviting visitors to stop, rest, and enjoy the views.
Although the budget was very tight, the project presented an opportunity to create more than just the functional shed the program required. It is an offering of truly public architecture, with a rich spatial experience that can be enjoyed by all.
Prior to the town purchasing the land for public recreation, the fields had been farmland for over a century. The form of the pavilion references the agricultural history of the site by taking a modern approach to the classic New England barn, in general, and to the tobacco barns of the area, in particular.
SCALE: RESIDENTIAL VS. RECREATION
On one side of the site are single-story ranch houses, while on the other side are two-story high baseball fences. The buildings facilitate the transition between scales, sloping lower toward the residential area, and rising higher toward the recreation area—and the fences, fields, and forest beyond.
BUILDING AS GATEWAY
Rather than create a singular mass, which would terminate views and movement, two separate buildings were formed to act as a gateway to the overall site.
TRANSITION FROM SOLID TO VOID
As the buildings move toward the playground, main vehicular access, and community gardens, they transition from solid to void, as a way to engage these public spaces.
BUILDING AS BENCH
CHALLENGE: How to make a closed building still feel open. REPONSE: Make the entire building act as seating, available at all times.
The biggest challenge of the project was to have the buildings continue to be inviting and engaging to the public, even when the interior is closed, as it will be much of the year. Although this was not a requirement of the program, it was recognized to be critical to the project’s success.
The design solution was to make the entire building function as seating, by stringing benches between each module. Where the benches are open on both sides, they are particularly deep—24” wide—for comfort. On the recreation side, they can function as spectator seating, and on the parking lot side, they can function as a place where kids can wait for their rides home. In the covered area by concessions, the benches serve as additional seating, to supplement future mobile picnic tables. And when the building is rented out for parties, and special events, some of the seating is already built right in.