By Jack Stubbs
“The building was always seen as the ‘living room’ for the city…there’s functionality within the space that [supports] people gathering there,” said Jim Graham, design principal at Graham Baba Architects, who is part of the project team that designed the Hangar at Town Green in Kenmore, which was conceptualized as a year-round focal point for the city.
Located at 6728 NE 181st St., the 4,600 square foot Hangar and the 24,000 square foot Town Green, located in the heart of downtown Kenmore, serves as a recreational gathering space for residents of the growing city of Kenmore and visitors to the area. The development officially opened to the public on August 26th, 2017.
Graham Baba Architects was a sub-consultant to HEWITT landscape architects, who was the prime consultant and landscape architect for the project. The project team also included KPFF (civil engineer), PAE Engineers (electrical), Harriott Valentine Engineering (structural engineer), Luma (lighting) and ARUP (acoustical design).
One of the primary aspects of the project is its flexible design: it was designed to morph depending on weather or functional requirements and flexible enough for multiple uses and purposes. This emphasis on versatility was one of the main intentions for the project, according to Leann Crist, the project manager and architect at Graham Baba. “We separated [the Hangar and Town Green] very minimally, so that [the space] would feel very open,” Crist said. “During the times when it’s not being used as a gathering space, which is probably most days of the week, it can actually function as an extended coffee shop and hangout place,” she added.
There were specific design choices made by Graham Baba and HEWITT to ensure that the relationship between the Hangar and adjacent Town Green remained dynamic and fluid. The space opens to the Town Green via a 24-foot-wide by 16-foot-tall window wall. When open, the Hangar’s large roof overhang provides protection from inclement weather and also enables easy access to the town plaza.
One of the most important elements of the project was the degree to which it integrated into the surrounding community, according to Crist. “We took the roof and lifted it up towards the Town Green, so that the building felt like it was opening up to the public space even more,” she said. The exterior plaza features a fountain to encourage the public’s interaction with the space. Provisions for a cafe and bakery were also incorporated into the development’s design.
In terms of design, the structure is very much a reflection of its location in the heart of Kenmore and serves as a focal point within the community. “I don’t know if there is a specific design template, because [the building] is very specific to this site,” Crist said. “The Hangar and Town Green are right between the library on the west end and City Hall on the east end. So, this building really connects the dots for what makes this the center of town,” she added.
On the interior of the building, the multi-functionality of its design encourages a wide array of uses for the surrounding community. The structure includes a partitioned, multi-use assembly space for public gatherings, music performances, lectures, after-school programs and dance classes, among other uses. Additionally, wood cabinetry lockers are integrated into the space to provide a storage amenity for community groups and activities.
The interior design of the space encourages a broad array of uses and subsequently attracts a varied demographic of people from the Kenmore community. “From a design perspective, design matters. There’s a casual sophistication to it,” said Graham. “The area is really pretty remarkable, there’s such a diversity of people hanging out in that space. The city has laid out furniture in a way that’s very casual,” Crist added.
As Graham Baba collaborated with the city of Kenmore on the design of the structure, one of the priorities was to create a space that the community could enjoy in the long-term, according to Crist. “When we were working with the city and city manager, it was really important that this building be about the future of Kenmore…the goal was a building in Town Square that reflects where Kenmore is headed,” she said.
Kenmore is often considered a relatively older city, but demographic shifts are occurring—and the new building strived to reflect that, according to Crist. “Kenmore is often described as a ‘bedroom community,’ but there’s a lot of younger families that are starting to live there, and [the city] really wants to [attract] the kids and teenagers to the public spaces,” she said.
While the hope is that the design of The Hangar building will better fit the younger demographic from the surrounding community, this was achieved in part through the use of specifically-chosen materials. The building was constructed with durable, low-maintenance materials including exposed plywood panels, steel structural beams and columns and cedar siding on the exterior.
According to Crist, the building’s materiality endows it with a different character from other existing buildings in the vicinity. “Both the [Town Hall and library] buildings have a real civic quality to them; they’re brick, masonry and steel,” she said. “For this building, we wanted it to connect with people in a residential way. We wanted to make it with more humble materials that are softer, [to give it] more of a living room feel,” she added.
Additionally, the development meets the 2030 Challenge, which charts a path towards carbon-neutral buildings by 2030 by improving the CO2 emissions reductions in building energy consumption in five-year increments. An interior mechanical system reduces the use of distributed energy through a floor heating and cooling system, while a heated concrete floor and industrial-sized ventilation fans maintain a comfortable building environment throughout the year.
Due to city-imposed building development, the building ultimately had to be smaller and include fewer features and finishes—yet, this outcome benefitted the overall sustainability of the project, as well, according to Crist. “The materials were only what they needed to be…we minimized the windows and glazing to where it needed to be for the urban design that fit well with the space,” she said.
A building originally designed with the residents of the Kenmore community in mind—with an urban design that reflected the ethos of downtown—reception of the building has thus far been positive, according to Graham. “From what we’ve heard so far from the city, the people in the town have really embraced [the building]. People are feeling ownership of it, and that was one of the main goals of [the project],” he said.