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Two OPN-Designed Buildings Earn AIA Central States Honor Awards

Marion Fire Station Headquarters
Marion Fire Station Headquarters
Linn County Dr. Percy & Lileah Harris Public Health Building
Linn County Dr. Percy & Lileah Harris Public Health Building
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — OPN Architects’ Marion Fire Station Headquarters and the Linn County Dr. Percy & Lileah Harris Public Health Building were among seven projects chosen to receive Architecture Honor Awards in this year’s American Institute of Architects Central States Region (AIA CSR) Excellence in Design program.

Projects are judged based on a variety of features, including unique design, originality, extended use attributes, sustainability, budget, and use of environmental surroundings. The program, which also honors interior architecture, unbuilt, and student work, received 350 submissions.

Marion Fire Station Headquarters
Crucial for this rapidly growing community, the Marion Fire Station & Headquarters reduces response time, establishes a strong and transparent civic presence, and uses biophilic design principles to support fire fighters' physical and mental wellness.

“Few projects challenge our expectations but this stands out amongst the rest, reconsidering what a fire station can be. The use of wood on the interior and exterior is unexpected and beautiful and the connection to site and natural daylight throughout is refreshing,” said an AIA Central States Jury Member.

The two-level 21,000-square-foot fire station is anchored by a two-story apparatus bay. Full-height glass doors on both the north and south elevation maximize daylight and establish a connection to the community. Extending east, shou sugi ban wood, which is charred using controlled fire, wraps the living and office spaces to add depth, texture, and contrast with the smooth plane of the glass. Strategic sequencing of spaces, including a decontamination clean room, between the bays and the office and living areas mitigate exposure to fire and ash carcinogens.

On the opposite side of the bays, the hose-drying tower also serves as a training area to simulate rescues. Training opportunities continue at the exterior where the retention pond is also used to train for ice rescues. Circadian lighting is used throughout to ensure the firefighters' wake-sleep cycle is synchronized with natural light. These interior spaces are complimented by two ipe wood terraces sheltered by a roof and wall trellis. A green roof surrounds all the living spaces and sleeping rooms.

Linn County Dr. Percy & Lileah Harris Public Health Building
Situated in an urban neighborhood, Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health Building and site are resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. Community engagement was at the heart of the visioning and planning process for this building, which is named after two local civil rights pioneers who dedicated their lives to health, education, and social equity.
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“We continued to return to this project for its clarity of diagram, proportion, and thoughtful integration of exterior spaces to the surrounding community,” said an AIA Central States Jury Member.

The 63,000-square-foot building is energy efficient with a focus on health and wellness. Several didactic tools allude to this through the design, including large windows into mechanical spaces and a green roof and deck that overlooks the playground and neighborhood. The façade of the three-story public health wing is clad in a sunshade that wraps the volume and includes a porch overlooking the city. This ‘front porch’ creates relief in the long elevation, connects to an interior two-story circulation space, and serves as an extension of meeting spaces. The adjacent double-height circulation areas are daylit and feature exposed steel and wood structure to create a welcoming environment.

This is the first time in OPN’s 43-year history that the firm has received two honor awards from AIA CSR in the same year. The firm's first AIA CSR Honor Award was received in 2021 for the design of the Lester Buresh Family Community Wellness Center.

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