Largo Community Center
Despite being housed in a building largely devoid of windows, the mostly senior population using Largo, Fla.'s old community center was thriving. The environment was not perfect, but the kinship displayed by patrons and staff inspired the design team tasked with creating a new center. Through an inclusive design process that included many meetings with all stakeholders, a building that directly meets the needs of the seniors of Largo was born.
The new 30,000-square-foot facility is organized around its patrons' needs. Corridors were eliminated, and circulation was consolidated within a large central lobby, which acts as a city square. Patrons can now mingle and survey the entire facility together at one time. This is the place to meet with friends, or relax between classes. It features floor to ceiling glass to provide the natural light that patrons had been deprived of in the older facility.
In addition to allowing light to flood the facility, the design team ensured patrons a good view through the glazing by locating the building around a stand of beautiful Grand Oak trees. A park among the trees becomes part of the lobby space itself. Largo Parks Department Director Joan Byrne envisioned a park-like environment extending through the lobby. This was achieved by a combination of views to the outside and leaves embedded into suspended ceiling panels, along with an abstract landscape in the lobby's concrete accent wall. Exterior materials extend into the building to further blur the distinction between the exterior and interior. The resulting environment is inviting, uplifting and promotes patron involvement.
With a majority of programs focused on seniors, the facility caters to this population while still retaining elements attractive to a younger population, including baby boomers. It includes a small café, a black box theater, an arts room, a dance room and a game room. Glazing into each program room from the lobby draws participants in.
Mobility and senses are a focus throughout the building's details. Shaded transitions between the lobby and exterior entries help ameliorate seniors' greater sensitivity to glare, while toilet rooms were enlarged to allow space for scooters and wheelchairs. Floor materials were carefully selected to provide the right friction coefficient for walkers and standard walking. A fitness room offers low-impact equipment. And every room has acoustical treatments that reduce echo and improve voice intelligibility. A Loop system was installed in the auditorium and black box theater to connect hearing aids directly to the sound system. And, outside, raised communal garden plots, a waking trail, resting benches and a covered area for golf cart parking integrated into the design.
The center earned LEED Platinum status through countless details and energy-saving techniques, including: photovoltaic cells, solar water heating, mechanical energy recovery units, low flow water fixtures, bioswales, stormwater treatment, air quality control, energy-efficient glazing, low VOC materials, a recycling program, Florida-friendly landscaping and more. The resulting project saves 42 percent of the energy and water needed to operate the building, while providing a pleasant and inviting place for seniors to gather.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.largo.com
W H A T T H E J U D G E S S A I D
"Very impressive reaching LEED Platinum! Great model of what energy saving and environmental can be. Love the entry space! Very inviting. Good flow and plan is easy to navigate."
"A platinum example (literally) of a community center design to serve intergenerations to come. The facility beautifully integrates into the Florida landscape and provides Largo seniors a fabulous home—covered drop-off included."
"What a wonderful facility focused on seniors. Special care was given to details focused on the patron's issues with mobility and senses."
A S S O C I A T E D F I R M S
Contractor: Creative Contractors Inc.
Structural: Master Consulting Engineers Inc.
Electrical: VoltAir Engineers Inc.
Mechanical: Consulting Engineering Associates Inc.
Audio/Visual: Audio Visual Innovations
Landscape Architect: David Conner and Associates
Civil: Charlotte Engineering and Surveying Inc.