Vail Valley Voices: Soccer barn is an architectural bust
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Michael Glass, chairman of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, recently submitted an article to Valley Voices extolling the virtues of the field house constructed near the new Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. The article listed the many activities and uses for which the field house could be used.
Glass also made a point of stating the field house was “the first large building constructed under the Eco-Build guidelines of Eagle County.” The article went on to enumerate various aspects of the building that make it an environmentally friendly structure, including special mention of the “light-colored roof” selected for “its energy-efficient properties” and the “use of highly reflective and emissive materials.”
There can be no doubt that a building as large as the new field house can have many good uses and that a consideration prior to construction would be controlling operation and utility costs. Indeed, those are the same considerations every developer and businessperson makes in determining whether to construct a new facility.
One thing absent from the article is an explanation of how such a barn-like industrial building with no apparent architectural goal other than to construct a roof over a soccer field was even considered, much less approved, for its location in Edwards. There is nothing about the exterior of the building that demonstrates any redeeming qualities. Its use dictated its scale, but no effort was made to break up the huge roof planes or any of its vertical elevations. Additionally, there was no attempt made to achieve a harmonious relationship between the building and its surroundings. The barn-red exterior color has nothing in common with the vegetation or physical elements found in the area, and the thousands of square feet of “highly reflective” roof material present a condition specifically not permitted in most Eagle County communities.
Virtually every project in Miller Ranch has been well developed architecturally. This trend most recently resulted in the excellent new high school, a facility of which all of our residents, parents and children can be justifiably proud. That trend, however, has come to an abrupt and confusing end with a building that degrades and debases the quality of all the work previously done in Miller Ranch by the school board, Colorado Mountain College, Eagle County in its development of the affordable-housing units and East West’s service center.
Undoubtedly WECMRD’s Glass and other board members will respond by saying that the building is all that could be afforded after estimating its costs. If so, it’s a fair response to ask why CMC, East West Partners and the school board weren’t given the same options of extreme-value engineering when they were constructing their respective projects. Conversely, and more importantly, why wasn’t WECMRD held to the same standards as those projects? Whatever the approval process may have been, a cursory comparison of the field house to the other projects in Miller Ranch is proof that in this instance, the process completely failed.
Can anything be done? Certainly, appropriate officials should be invited to the north side of the valley to observe the blinding reflectivity of the roof. Its intense brilliance in the afternoon sun can be debilitating to drivers and, in any case, is of a material not appropriate in its current setting. There will be a hue and cry that WECMRD can’t afford to mitigate the reflectivity, especially since they were trying to comply with Eagle County’s ecoBuild guidelines. If such a response is a justification for permitting the continuance of the field-house roof as it presently exists, then the ecoBuild guidelines need to be revisited to assure that such a condition is not repeated.
One of our greatest leaders was asked to design a new state capitol. The residents of that state turned to Thomas Jefferson with a request to design a building combining “economy with elegance and utility.” Jefferson hoped to impress visitors with its timeless beauty, raise Virginia’s reputation and inspire its residents. Admittedly, the field house was never intended to be comparable to a state capitol. However, the idea of combining “economy with elegance and utility” seems to have been completely ignored in the design of WECMRD’s building. In light of the numerous complaints that have been made regarding the exterior industrial appearance of the building and its roof, it’s safe to say WECMRD’s soccer barn is leaving many Edwards residents, including this writer, decidedly uninspired.
George Gregory is an Edwards resident.