OWP&P Architects, Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. Campus, North Shore Senior Center

Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. Campus, North Shore Senior Center – Northfield, Illinois
OWP&P Architects – Chicago, Illinois
Type of Facility/Setting: Senior Center

Facility Contact: Sandi Johnson, Executive Director

Firm: OWP&P Architects, (312) 960-8008

Design Team: Martin S. Valins, RIBA, Project Principal; Margaret J. Cervantes, AIA, IIDA, Project Designer; Susan Boeman, AIA, Project Architect

Photography: Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing

Resident Capacity: N/A

Space/Resident (sq. ft.): N/A

Total Area (sq. ft.): 40,000

Total Cost (excluding land): $4.5 million

Cost/Sq. Ft.: $112.50

Completion: September 2000

This senior center was formally five contiguous warehouses. Two were demolished to accommodate parking and three were gutted, leaving only the structure and shell. The designers embraced the industrial quality of the resulting 40,000-sq.-ft., column-free interior to create communal environments within an open space. Dominated by bright colors, an open floor plan and light-filled areas, the center makes inventive use of its dynamic interior. Flexible areas range from high-volume gathering places to classrooms and an intimate cafT. “Main Street,” delineated by street lamps and floor patterns, connects these varying volumes.

Main Street opens onto a light-filled wintergarden, which provides sunshine and warmth year-round and hosts many of the center’s activities. Flooding the area with natural light, the skylight draws people down Main Street to the wintergarden. The skylight helps bring the outdoors in, enabling seniors to have a sense of the outdoors while remaining in an accessible and temperate environment. Brick pavers in the cafT and the gift shop pavilion also help bring a street environment inside.

Pavilions differentiate the open space, creating more intimate environments. The library, a pavilion in the wintergarden, uses acoustical treatments to create a quieter, more private space. Further, the open design of the pavilion draws visitors into the library and ties the library functions to the wintergarden’s activities.

The designers programmed spaces so that public and private functions overlap to encourage spontaneous interaction. Classes and activities are programmed both in the formal classrooms and in the casual spaces of the wintergarden, library and cafT.

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