The Echo Ridge Community Center was completed this spring in Topeka, Kansas, just in time to plant an early summer garden. The Center was built to serve the residents of 30 new affordable housing duplexes in the Echo Ridge Development and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The building is divided into four main public zones: Community Zone, Food Zone, Adult Zone, and Kid Zone. Each of the four interior zones connects to a sheltered exterior space to encourage residents to spend more time outdoors.
The outdoor areas are shaded by an awning of cedar slats, corrugated fiberglass and, in a few years, tall river birch trees.
Residents can grow food in the community garden, learn to prepare it in the teaching kitchen and enjoy the meals they make in the flexible community room. We appreciate the efforts of Danielle Kruse to help explain the benefits of cooking and eating non-processed food to the residents of Echo Ridge.
The wraparound awning and fenced-in areas break up the mass of an otherwise simple insulating concrete box-form. The cedar slats cast dynamic shadows on the building’s corrugated metal and limestone facade. Rainwater from the south awning is diverted directly into the root system of the garden through a network of underground perforated pipes.
The Kid Zone includes a “bully-free” area where children can play without feeling threatened. Stacked limestone blocks form a sort of miniature, Kansas-style Stonehenge.
Anyone using the play field can go inside the Community Center to get a drink of water, use the restroom or take a break from the heat. Parents can stand on the community deck and watch their kids play.
A centrally-located administrative space allows a single staff person to see what’s happening in all four zones.
Using a palette of durable and easily maintainable materials and flexible “off the shelf” furniture, we worked within the Topeka Housing Authorities’ tight budget. The building achieved all of the the credits of the Enterprising Green Communities Program, a stipulation required to receive federal funding.
The clerestory towers and perimeter spaces are illuminated at night so that Echo Ridge residents can continue to use the outdoor space after the Community Center is closed.