Standing in the Gap since 2007.

Recreate to Re-Create Lives: A Recreation Link

Student Erica Muldoon sought to work with a local nonprofit who strives to help “heal Michigan’s victimized girls and women with best-practice treatment programs designed to meet their unique needs while serving other vulnerable children and families within Southeast Michigan.” Erica was inspired by their mission is to build a community that “enables vulnerable girls, as well as at-risk children and families, to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty by providing them with the education, daily living assistance and supportive social connections critical to their sustained success.”  (Note: I have chosen not to name this organization until receiving explicit permission to do so.)

Erica’s project centers on creating a link between two secured dormitories that will house a recreation space for year round activity and expansion of treatment programs as well as provide space for expanding services which includes office spaces and flex space.  The resulting design work is best described in Erica’s own words:


Outdoor communal space for reading and socializing.

“The design response for a recreational link includes the main recreation space, conference space, small offices, small meeting spaces, multipurpose space, and storage. The response is to create cohesiveness between the new and existing space while creating an individual identity for the link. It is also important for this space to have an atmosphere different from the existing dorms. For this group’s work to be the most effective that it can be it is important that the spaces reflect this attitude, that they are there to help and have a desire to help the residents to recover. This space should be an open encouraging area, a lively space that can inspire the residents to make a change for their futures.

Extending the new space beyond to existing spaces begins to distinguish it from the existing. The form carries that further. Trusses designed for day lighting create the unique identity, while similar and complimentary materials were carried through to link to tie the two together. Additional material types were added to the link for further definition of the space.

Day lighting was a major motivating factor throughout the design. The trusses were designed to maximize day light will also providing structure for light to “play on.” Day light filters though the structure creating a unique play of light and shadow within the space that is constantly changing with the day and seasons. The new entry was also designed with the use of this truss. The entry atrium allows light to flood the first and second floor spaces so that all spaces (open and closed) have natural light throughout the day. This is also a defining factor in the atmosphere of the link. The use of the trusses, atrium, and open space create a light, community oriented, and unoppressive atmosphere. Bright colors (orange and green) and warm materials (wood, brown brick, light cast panels) are more inviting than the concrete block and brink and dark cold colors of the existing building. These make this a space the residents will want to go and will want to engage with. The more engaged the residents are with their surroundings (in a positive way) the more invested they are in their progress in treatment, the more invested they are in changing their futures.

The patio extension of the recreation space can be a very integral part in the programs offered here. This space creates a buffer between one wing of the dormitories and the recreation space. The “dead space” between these posed a very difficult problem. On one hand, the new link was very close to the dorms which were not the ideal backdrop to their windows, but on the other abutting up to the dorm is not an option for egress means as well as day light. In studying day lighting patterns for this space in reference to the rec space and dorms there was sufficient lighting through any given day that could support a landscaped space. Located between the two buildings, the patio is private and enclosed enough for use nearly year round but also large enough for small groups to occupy it. In connection to programs the residents are involved in this can become another activity in their treatment. If the residents are responsible for the planting and upkeep of this space not only do they then have ownership of the space so to speak they also have the opportunity to she result of their efforts rather quickly, reinforcing and encouraging their efforts in other areas in treatment.”


Entry facade for the proposed recreational link.

While serving as a juror for this year’s session of the studio, Erica encouraged the current group of students to be willing to challenge the limited expectations of their local agents, and be willing to push against the boundaries of their vision, with the goal of showing them a greater range of possibilities.  As of this writing, the project (or one like it) has yet to move forward, but Erica’s work has inspired enthusiasm and dedication for advancement among her agents.


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