The Bower Activities Center (BAC) introduces a light-filled hub of activity and care programs to the pastoral campus of Youth Villages in the city of Bartlett, an outlying suburb of Memphis, TN. Youth Villages, “a nationally recognized leader in the field of childrens' mental and behavioral health,” provides residential, academic, and developmental services for children and teens with “emotional, mental, and behavioral problems.” Initially designed to house only the Food With Class program – an educational class where teens learn to develop teamwork and professional skills in a commercial kitchen setting – and a few other support services, the scope of the design quickly grew as Youth Villages identified the opportunity for a more holistic Activity Center that could supplement the services provided in the residential, educational, and recreational facilities on campus. New amenities afforded by the BAC include a dance & yoga studio, bouldering wall, workout room, drum therapy room, theater room, art room, covered outdoor basketball and picnic pavilions, a salon, counseling rooms, and dental and optometry treatment rooms.
Sited atop a gently sloping hill at the nexus between residential “cottages” and education buildings, the BAC negotiates the varying scales with dueling single-sloped roof planes. Whereas most buildings on campus implement metal roofs with hipped or gabled forms, the single-slope planes of the BAC open upward and outward from the center of the building, granting expansive views of the campus and allowing the larger primary program spaces to reside at the perimeter of the plan. Where the roof terminates at its lowest point, steel trellises mirror the slope, expanding the building form outward and upward once again while providing shade for plaza, deck, and interior spaces. The varied hues of the red brick façade are contextual, durable, and provide an immediate tactility that contrasts the smoothness of the steel trellis. Exposed glulam beams, wood roof decking, and plywood wall panels bring a sense of warmth and tactility. An expansive central skylight, interior view windows and central axes that terminate with views out allow ample daylight to be shared between spaces. These features seek to promote a unity and shared experience between the unique programs offered within the BAC.
Drawing from the language of the steel trellises and single sloped roofs of the primary building, two pavilions stand across the street, serving as covered outdoor spaces for picnics, gatherings, group therapy sessions, pickup basketball games, and anything in between. An axial path that leads from the main plaza of the BAC building, across the street between pavilions, and through to an existing baseball field unite the whole site as a collective Activities Complex.