Award Winner - May/June 2005
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Grandview Community Center
Grandview, Mo.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:


60,776 gross
square feet

Project cost:
$11 million

Quick tour:

  • 11,055-square-foot aquatic center that offers three unique areas: four-lane lap/training pool with deep water, basketball and volleyball goals, for lap and recreational swimmers water aerobics classes, and swimlessons; zero-depth-entry pool with interactive components, bubblers, palm tree with coconuts dropping water, serpent and shark floatable; therapy seat; lazy river; and two-story water slide
  • 9,558-square-foot gymnasium with hardwood floors, six glass backboards, four volleyball inserts and a drop-down curtain that divides activities. Natural light is brought in from three of the gymnasium corners.
  • 4,175-square-foot fitness area that provides cardiovascular (treadmills, cross trainers, upright and recumbent bicycles, and stairs), selectorized equipment, plate-loaded hammer strength and free weights for members in a sunlit room provided by a panel of windows lining the north wall
  • 1,800-square-foot aerobic dance room that includes hardwood floors, ballet bars and a full-length-mirrored wall as well as Spinning bikes, bands, balls, steps, weights (barbells and dumbbells), and more for a variety of classes (more than 60 per week)
  • 1/16-mile walking/running track
  • Situated right behind the front customer-service desk, the 30-foot-wide indoor climbing area features a freeform tower that is 29 feet tall with six climbing locations and two auto-belay stations.
  • Kid Zone, a baby-sitting area for children (up to two hours) while parents are working out or attending a class, and the Tot Zone is located conveniently across from the front customer-service desk. The room is equipped with toys, games, small tables, chairs and couches, television with VCR, and its own restrooms.
  • 3,900-square-foot multipurpose banquet room
  • Park and recreation department offices (428 square feet)

The director of the new Grandview Community Center has been noticing something about local residents' reaction to the recently opened facility.

"Someone from the community walks in for the first time, and their eyes get wide," says Janis Steele, director of operations for the Grandview Department of Parks and Recreation. "They had no idea that we were building something this beautiful."

The residents' reaction is understandable. The 60,000-square-foot facility is located in the city's largest park, and designers took great care to match the new building to its surroundings, which include a grove of trees to the north and open prairie to the south.

"Throughout the building, they tried to bring the outside inside," explains Steele, referring to the five-person design team from architectural firms Ankeny Kell Architects (the design architects) in St. Paul, Minn., and Gould Evans Goodman Associates (the architect of record) in Kansas City, Mo., that worked on the project. This effort included extensive use of windows as well as leaf-patterned "light monitors," or high windows, along the facility's central corridor to give the effect of walking through a stand of trees in the heart of the building.

"The trees really influenced the design," says Mark Wentzell, the Ankeny Kell architect who was design principal on the project. "We wanted a very open feeling."

Mission accomplished, according to Steele.

"[The design team] really used the landscape of the park," she says. "From every room in the building, there's a beautiful view."

Situated on a hillside, the center is one story tall at one end and two stories tall where the elevation falls away, a design that maximized space while presenting a low profile to the residential neighborhood adjacent to the one-story side.

"We wanted to pay attention to our neighbors and not impose on them with some big monstrosity," Steele says.

Far from a monstrosity, the resulting structure is not only graceful but capacious, offering activities for every imaginable member of the community. Recreation resources include an aquatic center, gymnasium with indoor basketball courts, and a fitness area offering weightlifting and cardiovascular machines. In addition, the facility has meeting rooms and a multipurpose banquet space that can be rented for weddings and other special occasions.

"We were after a design that encouraged community gathering, that was a symbol of gathering," Wentzell says. "Often a rec center like this one is the center of the community."

So exactly how does a small town, working on a limited budget and struggling to maintain its identity and positive self-image amidst the sprawl of the larger Kansas City metropolitan area, end up with what Steele calls "a jewel of a building"?

Wentzell and Steele both credit a highly collaborative design process, in which designers and community stakeholders—including department of parks and recreation employees, city councilmembers, and park board members—gathered for four focused workdays in a nearby school building as the project was first getting started. The days were reserved for design work, while every night the group gathered for dinner and discussed both the latest developments and possible new directions.

"We spent quite a lot of time with the staff that would be running the building, discussing how the building would operate, so that they would be sure that the building would operate for them," Wentzell says.

It's a process that seemed to work well, Steele adds.

"Our goal was to provide something really special for the community, from babies to seniors, from any cultural background," she explains. "Our membership reached 8,500 this year, which is a lot in a community of 26,000. That tells me we really did what we were trying to do."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"This community gem draws guests to its entry like a beacon, then delights them with a compelling experience that mesmerizes the senses. The designers cleverly tucked the center into a hillside and took advantage of the existing topography and solar orientation. This design is not cookie-cutter. It is unique to its park setting and innovatively takes advantage of the site's natural features."

steve blackburn

"Front elevation and appearance is elegant and loved the lantern in entrance. Impressed with siting of building and how it presents itself in scale."

rudy fabiano

"Excellent use of a sloping site, making both levels feel connected to the out of doors."

brent tippets

"The use of light colors and clerestories makes the interior shimmer with light. Site plan is elegantly understated. The plan nicely organizes the building along a single axis making it easily understood without being boring."

andrew lavallee

"Interesting use of light and shadows. Exterior transparency connects well to site as well as some good connecting to interior. Like how building works well with its site and surrounding landscape. Tree details are fun."

jim maland

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

architect of record

Gould Evans Goodman Associates

structural engineer

Bob D. Campbell & Co.

MEP and Civil Consultant

Henderson Engineering

aquatics consultant

Water's Edge Aquatic Design

construction manager

McCown Gordon Construction


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