Feature Article - October 2011
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Safe Haven

Protect Patrons & Beautify Sites With Shade & Shelters

By Rick Dandes


Form & Function

It's a given, said several park managers, that existing structures must be well maintained, clean and accessible, or people will generally not use them.

Beyond basic cleanliness and safety are the aesthetics, which are often subjective. Some people gravitate to what architects call the classic "logitecture," often associated with the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. These structures were built by tradesmen and craftsmen often living on site using local material, often harvested on site. They generally have a massive and durable appearance with a somewhat whimsical quality, Walters explained.

The simple lines of contemporary structures, he said, "often have appeal as they have a utilitarian aesthetic that is purpose-built and driven by the materials used in their construction. Contemporary shelters may be interpretations of traditional structures such as wildlife blinds, lean-tos or tents. Though rooted in tradition, the linear planes and geometries contrast with the natural scenery around them."

When choosing a new shelter design, the shelter certainly should fit within its natural environment and complement the surroundings to create a sense of place, insisted Rhonda Gracie, landscape projects coordinator, Parks and Recreation Department, Greenspace Management Division, Miami Beach, Fla.

"It should be made of durable materials that will age like a good bottle of wine," she said. "The structure should be easy to maintain and not look outdated within a few years. I tend to choose classical lines that work with various architectural sensibilities. Many manufacturers will also provide free 3-D color rendering to help their clients visualize the product before purchasing."

From a park manager's perspective, said Sharpe, of Summer Waves Water Park, "I suggest first looking at function and then consider form."

Like Gracie in Miami Beach, Sharpe said that if you establish a need for a structure, then most shelter manufacturers offer enough options to satisfy your design requests. Some things to consider when thinking about aesthetics are color schemes and design. You want to make sure that what you decide upon blends in well with the existing structures in your park.

That's also what Duane Randall, director of Parks and Recreation, City of Vinton, Iowa, advised. "I think the first priority is if the structure matches or fits in with the park or setting," he said. "If you can also give the structure some artistic value or uniqueness, it will be a positive for your facility."

The question of how best to get a "look" that fits in with a site is considered critical. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options available: from retractable systems to metal, fabric, wood, and tensioned systems. If this consideration is truly important for you, retain a qualified design consultant such as a landscape architect or architect. The design consultant will examine your needs and recommend a solution that responds to the site and the appropriate aesthetic. A stock shelter may be the most appropriate choice, Walters said. However, the design consultant can assist in choosing the best model and properly integrating it into the site.

Whether your site calls for ultra-modern or old-world, there is a style to suit every need, and almost all manufactures will modify the shelter dimensions to fit within each site's requirements.