Design for public safety building is a travesty

Published:

By C. Andrew Casebier

I am not predisposed to complain or even to offer extended comment about the design solutions by other architects. As an architect myself, I appreciate that explicit design parameters, budget constraints, functionality of the building spaces, security provisions and other complex issues can limit and/or significantly influence the feasible solutions to a design problem. These issues are not often clearly obvious to those who have not considered the project in detail.

Having said that, I feel I need to make an exception in the case of the proposed design of the Public Safety Building planned for construction in South Frankfort. Having seen the proposed design of the Emergency Operations Center for the City of Frankfort, I have sincere concerns with the design solution presented by Keith Reeves of Architects Design Group of Winter Park, Florida.

The proposed building that is slated to replace the current police department building on Second Street lacks any sense of aesthetic character that would reinforce and/ or complement the historic significance of this area of Frankfort. The building does not even begin to address the contextual influences of the South Frankfort Historical District -- the use of ribbon window fenestration is not appropriate; the massing and scale of the building is not consistent with the area; and the siting of the building, including its entrances and interface with the community patterns, is lacking sensitivity.

The City of Frankfort has an opportunity to provide a splendid asset to the South Frankfort Area and to the Frankfort community as a whole the construction of a building that should have a life expectancy of at least 50 years and therefore contribute significantly to the quality of life for all our citizens. This opportunity is being missed with the proposed design of this building!

The reported investment of $9.5 million dollars of building construction in our city deserves honest thought and extensive planning. This investment should not be wasted on an ill-conceived architectural notion of a building that misses the mark so significantly!

Yes, it is a very important project for our community. I believe we all have an appreciation for that.

Good (sensitive and well-thought-out) design doesnt cost more than insensitive and poorly-executed design. In fact, my extended years of experience in the architectural profession has proven to me that good design in the majority of cases costs less. Constructing a building with ribbon-window fenestration requires more structure read: additional costs. Constructing a building in the modern style requires specific material selection and detailing read: additional costs. Constructing a building that is inconsistent with community patterns requires additional site features and improvements read: additional costs. Function is not negatively affected by sensitive understanding of the contectural character of a building location and it doesnt necessarily cost more.

Should the architect automatically be compensated for re-design if his design is found to be inappropriate for resolving all the issues related to the design problem? No. Not unless the owner (City of Frankfort) has driven the design toward something that compromises the resolution of the design issues that the architect has faced. If the architect has not fully considered all the pertinent issues in his design which building in an historic and viable area dictates and his design is rejected because of this failure on his part to fully consider these issues, he has a professional obligation to correct his error. Architectural design is not just providing a building that is constructible and meeting the basic functional requirements of a building program. Architectural design includes taking into account all the various issues and factors that make the building functional, economical, aesthetically proper and sensitive to the building location and siting.

How much delay should be expected in modifying the design to meet the issue of contextual sensitivity? Since there are only a handful of modifications truly necessary to change this poorly designed building into an appropriately designed building, the delay should be expected to be minimal, if there is any real delay at all.

The City of Frankfort must take a step back from the proposed building design and explore other design solutions seeking a more suitable building enterprise. The design as it currently stands is an unjustifiable travesty!

I urge the City Commission to do the right thing to insist that the architect provide an acceptable design solution. To do anything less than that is to sell short the value of the citys investment.

(C. Andrew Casebier is an architect living in Frankfort.)

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