'An icon for the city': CannonDesign craft Maryland Heights sports and wellness centre

Through the shaping and siting of the building, we were able to create an ‘acoustic shadow’ disrupting the propagation of sound waves from the highway and cutting decibel levels nearly in half
– David Polzin, CannonDesign executive director

A hub for recreational sports, wellness and civic engagement has opened in St Louis, Missouri, using a design that shelters it from an interstate highway.

Architecture and engineering firm CannonDesign were tasked with creating the new home for the Maryland Heights Community Center to replace a facility no longer fit-for-purpose.

The brief called for a destination centre for the community of Maryland Heights, offering a variety of uses and preserving the site’s usable green spaces while mediating the harsh environment of the highway.

To achieve this, the ground plane was lifted and the building was nestled into the raised landscape, offering shelter while maintaining the stretch of land connecting the site towards a neighbouring water park to the north.

“The project’s greatest challenge was also its greatest opportunity,” CannonDesign executive director David Polzin told CLADglobal. “The building’s proximity to the adjacent highway presented an enormously harsh acoustical environment with noise levels upwards of 90 db, nearly equivalent to the noise of a jet engine.

“Through the shaping and siting of the building, we were able to create an ‘acoustic shadow’ disrupting the propagation of sound waves from the highway and cutting decibel levels nearly in half. This strategy opened up the possibility for a very expressive architecture.”

The inflexion of the architectural plan created a sheltered entry plaza to the main building, forming an outdoor space for community events such as craft fairs and farmers markets.

The building features a transparent façade that reveals the public life of the community engaged in its activities of wellness and recreation.

A gym occupies the tallest interior volume, its eastern façade clad in a translucent triple-walled polycarbonate façade to control noise and glare, while also providing natural light by day and the qualities of a glowing lantern at night.

An indoor pool is prominently on display in the bulbous south end of the centre, while meeting rooms and a preschool are nestled in the lowest portion of the form and have a private courtyard carved in the rising ground plane.

“We worked very closely with the city council in developing the design, and they believed in the power of this building to be an icon for the community and one that would speak to the future of the city,” said Polzin. “Lesser foresight from a different group would have yielded a far less innovative solution.”

CannonDesign have completed a number of North American sports facilities, including the recently-opened Place Bell ice hockey arena in the city of Laval, Quebec.

Last November, the practice were awarded an IOC/IAKS Silver Award for their work on the TD Place outdoor stadium at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.

The accolade – presented by the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities – celebrates exemplary buildings and complexes that integrate sensible sustainability and legacy considerations, strong functional planning and exceptional architectural design.

CannonDesign  St Louis  Maryland Heights  Maryland Heights Community Center  architecture  sports design  David Polzin 
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