A literal interpretation of the credo "a safe place to learn and grow" has been realized with the completion of the Dalton Whetstone Boys and Girls Club. Located in the heart of an economically depressed urban area, the facilities program focuses on life-enhancing lessons and character development experiences. Challenged to create a building to give refuge to disadvantaged children in a harsh environment, security considerations guided major design decisions. At the same time architects gave equal weight to the intrinsic qualities of light and the uplifting aesthetics of enriched spatial relationships.
Spaces are provided for every type activity and include a gymnasium, game rooms, computer room, craft shop, media/lecture room, snack bar, library, staff offices and adjacent ballfields. Vandalism from both inside the facility and the adjacent neighborhood was a major concern. At-grade exterior windows were minimized and lighting is brought into the building through clerestory windows which illuminate a spacious interior "activity way." All main activities are located along this spine with interior windows which bring daylighting into the rooms.
The gymnasium is a high use area with 1 x 8 tongue and groove natural pine paneling up to 8' above finish floor level. Flooring is an economical but extremely durable modular polypropylene copolymer tile with a rubber pad that fits together similar to lego blocks. The angled plan orientation of the gym in relation to the rest of the structure is a function of the shape of the site and a need to facilitate a circulation route to an adjacent building.
Because of gang activity in the vicinity, the interior color palette contained no references to commonly used gang colors. Green is the predominate color with equal additions of darkened but lively accent colors on ductwork. All finishes were chosen for durability and low maintenance. Several details emphasized the goal of providing "building blocks" of knowledge and creativity in combination with fun. Exciting tile patterns were used to provide movement. "Building blocks" are also seen in the window arrangement and the two stain colors of wood on millwork throughout the facility. The curved entrance canopy and sloping sunshades for clerestory windows are supported by a network of exposed steel bracing to further enliven the exterior. The entrance canopy was designed to provide a sheltered area where children can wait for their caregivers in inclement weather.
Poor soil conditions proved challenging in the structural design of the building. The pad was undercut 5' and sloped toward an existing ravine. A ribbed slab foundation system was necessary which stressed the overall budget. The expansive clay soil conditions mandated that no trees be planted near the building to prevent water infiltration around the perimeter. Rugged exterior materials of contrasting split face and smooth concrete block in a checkerboard pattern were used to soften the expanse of "unlandscaped" walls.
The community has embraced the new facility, evidenced by sponsorships of each room by supportive individuals or businesses. The initial fund drive was bolstered by a significant donation of a father in memory of his son, and the facility carries his name. The project is a tribute to a community which cares about its youth and their future.