Aligning Design with Surroundings

White River Junction Armed Forces Reserve Center
White River Junction, Vermont

By their very nature, government projects are, at their heart, collaborations. End users, construction managers, numerous agencies, architects—all of these stakeholders, and more, have input into how government facilities get designed and built. The Armed Forces Reserve Center in White River Junction was no exception. A design-build effort between J&J Contractors and SMMA, the scope of the project comprised a Training Center, an Organizational Maintenance Shop (OMS) building, and various storage facilities. 

Architecturally, SMMA designed the buildings to respond to their physical and cultural contexts, as well as their intended uses. Since the campus is located on land that had previously been used for farming, SMMA felt that the exterior of the Training Center, the main building, needed not only to express the plan and programming within, but also project a distinctly rural character.

To this end, we designed the elevation of the west wing to recall a barn, shaped the staircase at the southern extreme like a farm silo, and crowned the building at its center with a jaunty cupola.

To Serve, Defend...and Inspire

Both the Training Center and OMS building have clear and inviting entry points open to natural light. The main entry at the Training Center is a single-story space with a “front porch” that includes a storefront enclosure and canopy roof. This focus of the design is intended to convey energy and make a strong impression on approaching visitors and occupants alike. This and other breaks in the roof plane, including the addition of the cupola at the junction of the gabled roofs, help to break up the building massing and add visual interest.

Improving Circulation

The Training Center is used both by the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve, and its program necessitated the complete separation of storage and administrative areas for the two. At the outset of the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided a prescriptive plan that placed the assembly hall at the center of the building, with numerous offices located off a dead-end corridor. SMMA felt the arrangement of main spaces and circulation could be improved considerably, while also maintaining the adjacencies and unit segregations required. We reconfigured the plan to move the Assembly Hall, the facility’s main gathering venue, from a primarily interior space to an extension of the building—it is now a double-height space with exposed joists, flanked by service areas such as the kitchen and scullery. 

Sustainable Solutions

SMMA incorporated sustainable features into the architectural design and engineering, as appropriate, and made recommendations for alternate energy sources, material selection, orientation, and natural shading. As a project built under the auspices of the Corps of Engineers, all buildings on the site also had to meet multiple stringent standards, including Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) and International Building Code requirements. The buildings and site achieved LEED Silver certification.

Focus on Flexibility

Lobby areas transition to functional spaces, such as office spaces, a break area, and classrooms, many with views to the outside. Specialized training spaces, arms rooms, and equipment storerooms are either internal or located close to loading facilities, as in the case of the OMS/AMSA building. Our intent was to use forms and materials simply, in line with the design guidelines of the Statement of Work.