The Billings Architecture Association’s 2017 Celebrate Architecture competition called for design entries to bring purpose to an underutilized portion of North Park in Billings, MT. The designers were challenged to develop a solution for a three-season pavilion that could serve as a landmark to the city of Billings. The jury evaluated projects based on the response to program innovations, contextual relationships, and overall appearance.
Designers from CTA Austin and CTA New Orleans partnered up to address the BAA competition. Though the challenge was rooted in a culture and climate different than their own, the team took the opportunity to provide a fresh perspective outside of their comfort zone, and to learn about a fellow CTA community. Through iterative charrettes and thoughtful usage of work-sharing tools commonly used by CTA’s Retail studio — such as Webex screen-share meetings, digital model transfers, and intensive work sessions — this dual-office team demonstrated a positive example of how interoffice design collaboration can be as effective as work completed within a single office.
The industrial qualities of the railroad and the iconic form of the Rimrocks were aspects of the initial Billings research that drove design exploration. After several iterations, the team concurred that sloped earth against a natural stone backstop was a valid response to the site and competition requirements. To push the concept further, they dove into the character of the city, investigating ways to bring locals together in underutilized territory. Contextual connections were established by exploring regional geological forms and adjacencies between active and passive outdoor park space.
With initial concerns that a tall stone form would provoke climbing, the team experienced an “a-ha moment” that the stone form should actually invite climbing. By sloping the earth, the form could provide passive viewing areas for adjacent play areas, then transition into covered pavilion space, and separate to become a bouldering wall. The forms were also designed to provide seasonal use by anticipating potential for sledding down the back of the sloped pavilion into a snow-covered field in the winter, and carving out fire pits as small gathering areas in the fall. Within two weeks of scheduled collaborations, the team had progressed the concept in spurts of effort and refinement.
The resulting design represents a threefold mission regarding user behaviors: 1. Engage and enhance the existing adjacent activity areas in the park (ballfield and courts), 2. Provide for areas of prospect and refuge on a corner site, and 3. Establish gathering zones that vary in seasonal activity and exposure.
The final submission proposes a landmark pavilion which alludes to the larger context of Billings, MT, without explicitly mimicking its characteristics: a subtle nod to urban activity within a geological landform evoked by the pavilion’s abstracted and faceted natural stone bouldering wall. Inclusion of an informal, grassy slope bridges active and passive users in and around the park. The tactile nature of the pavilion’s form and physical materials speak to the industrial qualities of the city within a visually striking natural landscape.
Primary team members on the submittal were:
- Sarah Holnbeck
- Jennifer Moore
- Freddie Dickinson
- Corey Stidham