Cherryland Fire Station & Future EMS Health Portal
Presence, readiness, and protection: these are linchpins in the fire fighter’s credo. They also make for great fire station architecture. A facility with an assertive bearing, a dynamic readiness, and a community sensitivity is a facility based on public safety principles.
The new Cherryland Fire Station design embraces this public safety ethos. Strong colors and glowing transparency define this as a robust and accessible community centerpiece. An animated building massing evokes dynamic readiness. A fire-engine red canopy protects generous front and rear porches and all shared staff spaces. The innovative building program expands the facility mission: a core-and-shell space for a future integrated fire station health clinic will—when completed—supplement out-going emergency services with on-site preventative community medicine. A mosaic glass tile mural collages familiar Cherryland landmarks with the fire station’s history, acknowledging links between the fire department and the community it serves. This is public safety architecture as a strong and accessible civic actor.
Project: Alameda County Fire Department Cherryland Fire Station & Future EMS Health Portal. Cherryland, CA
Program: 11,860 square foot, one-company fire station
Site: 0.87 Acres
Parking: 15 total stalls
Misc: Two 25’h x 95’w, fire-engine-red shiplap cedar wood portals
Art: An 84,000 tile glass mosaic public art mural
Material: A materials palette matching fire apparatus colors/finishes
Cost: $8.5 million total construction
Construction Completion: Summer, 2017
Design ChallengeOver 90% of Alameda County Fire Department’s calls for service are for medically-related issues. Responding to this community need by always sending out a fire truck is a costly and unsustainable solution. How can a fire station better address this effectively?
Solution: The innovative response to this challenge is a combination of policy, design, and implementation strategies. The Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA) polled the community, learning that many community members who were otherwise uncomfortable to health clinics would be open to going to one located in a fire station; this led to the inclusion of a small, community “health portal” within the building program. The building design then incorporated this innovative idea of a fire station health clinic in the building infrastructure. The clinic is fully integrated in the building, has an independent front door, an indoor/outdoor waiting lobby/courtyard, and the ability to serve the community without interrupting fire station operations. For implementation, as development of this innovative prototype is still ongoing, the decision was to move ahead with the construction of the building, and core-and-shell the clinic space to allow construction of the clinic when all ongoing negotiations are complete. Innovation is often an incremental path. This innovative fire station health clinic concept answers the critical community demand for improved health services, but does so in a realistic and implementable way.
Physical ContextThis station is located in a redeveloping mixed-use neighborhood, with site constraints including sensitive residential uses on each adjacent parcel, a railroad track to the rear, and a narrow site configuration complicating the drive-through apparatus approach. The neighborhood has a legacy of small industrial uses competing with single family residences, with many of the manufacturing/repair uses either abandoned on the way out. The immediate context has few landmarks, and shows signs of disinvestment and transition.
Challenge #1: How to find resonance with the scale and diversity of the neighborhood?
Solution: compositionally, this project design uses the volumes and scale of the neighboring buildings as an urban design kit-of-parts, appropriating the scale/pattern, then composing these elements in a dynamic relationship within the fire station design. For example, the narrow and long proportions of the neighboring apartment buildings manifest as the “dark charcoal” volumes of the fire station, providing a continuity of rhythm and scale between neighbors and new building. Then, these volumes are united under the grand, fire-engine red canopies, layering a civic and institutional scale onto the composition.
Challenge #2: What is the appropriate language of “civic” within this context?
Solution: The design for the Cherryland Fire Station appropriates the colors and language of traditional fire fighter equipment (fire engine red, black, chrome and white) and leverages it for a fire department specific landmark. The civic presence of this building is unmistakably linked to its function; its landmark quality is inextricable from the community function it serves.
Challenge #3: How to best communicate a respect for and continuity with the history of the community?
Solution: The community history is represented through a major fully-integrated public art narrative piece. A glass tile mosaic mural – with 84,000 tiles – starts at the public plaza, and continues through the transparent façade through to the back of the public lobby. This mural collages community landmarks and open space to evoke the legacy of Cherryland. Co-designed with the input of community members and fire fighters, this glass tile mosaic provides a symbolic bridge between the fire department and the community it serves.
Challenge #4: How best to demonstrate a connection between the built and the natural environment?
Solution: Every shared space within the building – lobby, apparatus bay, day room, kitchen, fitness room, station office, etc. – receives natural day-lighting from at least three, sometimes four unique directions. These are provided through a combination of clerestories, skylights, and view windows. The result is a soft, gentle, evolving natural light spectrum that shifts subtly with the weather. This utilizes the powerful natural resource – daylight – to create a calming and stress mitigating operational environment.