Design Vault Ep. 17 Westlake with Eric Pros


Design Vault Ep. 17 Westlake with Eric Pros


Eric has passionately dedicated his career to architectural design excellence.  As Director of Design, Eric embeds himself with project teams and collaborates with end users to identify design opportunities and explore prospects for innovative solutions.  As an educator, Eric has served as a professor at Kent State University teaching design studio and digital application courses and inspires future generations of designers through engagement and mentorship.
Eric’s enthusiasm for an accessible and inclusive design process is the fuel that ignites the creative culture at DS Architecture.  Eric inspires collaboration not only amongst stakeholders and his colleagues, but also beyond DS Architecture’s headquarters in Cleveland Ohio which has led to numerous successful partnerships across the country and award winning projects.
Eric was recently awarded The American Institute of Architects 2022 Young Architect Award at the National Level.  He was included in the 40 under 40 class of 2022 by Building Design + Construction Network. He was also chosen as the 2022 recipient of the International Masonry Institute’s Young Architect Innovator in Masonry Award.  Eric was selected as a Crain’s Cleveland Business forty under 40, awarded the AIA Akron Emerging Talent Award, identified as Northeast Ohio Top 25 under 35 “Mover and Shaker” by the Cleveland Professional twenty-thirty club, and was recognized with the 2021 AIA Ohio Emerging Professional of the Year Award.





Contextual Background
The quarter-coffer brick detail was developed for the new City of Westlake Senior Community Center to bring new life to a classic style. The City of Westlake, Ohio has adopted a distinctive Western Reserve traditional style of architecture. All public buildings throughout Westlake are comprised of a traditional sandstone watertable, a blended red brick veneer, and a pitched roof with reverse gables over their entries.  Additionally, it was strongly suggested by the city that all buildings in Westlake incorporate the same “Olde Detroit” red/brown blend of brick in a standard modular size. Although the new building was encouraged to exhibit vernacular building materials and traditional forms, the articulation and arrangement of the building materials offered some flexibility and left room for creative intervention.  The design team took on the challenge, choosing to re-imagine the standard running bond pattern of brick through the lens of an ancient roman ruin which has stood the test of time for over 2000 years.

Program Requirements
The Westlake Senior Center is a facility designed for an aging population to celebrate their lives, share stories and create new memories.  The building needed to express the idea of timelessness and warm familiarity for the users.  The coffered dome of the pantheon is often referenced as a precedent for many classic structures, and the design team looked to it for inspiration.  The Massiveness of the form projects strength and stability, the volume of the space is welcoming, the light that streams through the oculus is inspiring, and the manner in which shadows spill over the coffered ceiling of the dome alludes to timelessness of the design.  The passage of time is expressed in the pantheon by the light that enters the space through an oculus and streams natural daylight across the surface of the dome’s interior.  Like the pantheon, the Westlake Senior Community Center affords its occupants an awe inspiring experience with an open air courtyard which brings natural light deep into the interior of the building, and a expansive volume on the interior where visitors are encouraged to linger around the perimeter of the courtyard.  

Conceptual Expression
The exterior of the building however, is where the quarter-coffer brick detail expresses the strength and depth of the mass of the building.  The coffered dome of the pantheon has been abstracted into a vertical pattern that repeats across the facade of the building in a rhythm of solid and void that exudes the same timeless sense of depth.  The repeating forms of the detail establish a predictable rhythm that is modulated across the surface of the building from a 15’-0” high veneer on one side, and 18’-0” on another.  The articulation of the brick detail allows for openings in the perimeter which not only are practical, but also support the pattern.  Punched window openings allow light to enter the building around the perimeter and provide views out of the offices into the landscape where the staff can keep a watchful eye on the patrons as they come and go.  

Contemporary Vernacular 
In this way a very traditional vernacular material was used to bring contextual continuity to a new project, yet re-imagined in a new way which provides a much more meaningful experience for the users of the building.  The awe-inspiring volumes on the interior of the building are echoed in the tranquil courtyard serenity garden.  The dynamic sequence of experiences continues onto the exterior of the building where light interacts with the facade throughout the day while patrons play bocce ball, participate in yoga sessions, and make use of the extensive hiking trails that depart from the Westlake Senior Community Center.  

Detailing the Concept
Looking to the Pantheon as a classic example of architectural beauty, the team decided to express massiveness and depth to the 28,000 SF building through a unique masonry detail.  Making note of the solar paths on the site, the design team decided it would be unnecessary to construct the exterior of the building with symmetrical four sided coffers, Instead by using only ¼ of the coffer, the most expressive portion of the coffer that reveals the deepest shadows and details can be captured and repeated across the surface in a regular 8’-0” or 12’-0” module.  Both modules permitting a 4’-0” wide window or doorway through the pattern without interruption.  The exterior wall assembly is a structural steel bearing wall which allows for the masonry veneer to be deeply expressive without structural concerns.  The design team allowed for a full wythe of movement in the wall to create deep reveals in the facade. To bring further movement to the surface of the building, the corner of the coffer is further expressed with a running bond brick pattern in a soldier brick orientation.  These vertically oriented brick transition to a horizontal orientation as they turn the corner of the coffer.  Using the standard 8” nominal unit, a ⅓ step in the masonry allows for the brick to gracefully turn the corner.  The vertically oriented brick low in the wall expresses the verticality and expansive volume of the building, while the horizontal banding at the top of the wall maintains the buildings cohesiveness and brings closure to the facades’ composition. 

 Although the texture that is generated across the face of the building appears to be intricate, the repetitive module of the masonry detail makes constructability of the system quickly repeatable and simple to construct on site.  Using a jig as a template, the depth of the wall can be rapidly replicated around the perimeter of the building.  The design team specified for a mock up wall panel to be constructed on site to work out any of the intricate details and serve as a reference for any tradesmen who are on site.

Although the Westlake Senior Community Center is not pursuing LEED accreditation, sustainable strategies were employed throughout the design process to ensure an environmentally sensitive response to the project.  The single story structure offers natural light to every inhabited space within the building thanks to expansive glazing around the perimeter and a glazed central courtyard that permits sunlight to penetrate deep into the interior of the building.   Specifying High efficiency mechanical equipment with LED lighting and a high performance envelope ensures that the building will have a minimal impact on the environment.  The building’s response to sustainability doesn’t end with the building systems however, the skin of the building itself was carefully considered.  The longevity and  durability that masonry affords was of utmost importance to the design team.  Because this building is designed to serve the citizens of Westlake for generations to come, a low-maintenance, long-lasting material was needed to provide this degree of longevity.  Furthermore in a northern climate with perpetual moisture issues, buildings with a carefully detailed masonry envelope can perform for generations with little or no maintenance.  

In this way, the Westlake Senior Community Center will serve as an example for the use of vernacular building materials in a contemporary cultural context to recall inspiring structures from antiquity that have inspired visitors for thousands of years.




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