Metal Architecture Home

Shelter Art


2015 Metal Architecture Design Awards, Judges Award, Corinthian Gardens Smokers Shelter Des Moines, ASK Studio, McNicholsWhen residents smoking too close to the building became an issue at Corinthian Gardens Apartments in Des Moines, Iowa, they turned to ASK Studio, Des Moines, to specify a smoker's shelter. A longtime client of the architectural firm, the affordable housing project for seniors is located on a busy urban thoroughfare. Brent A. Schipper, AIA, LEED AP, principal of ASK Studio, says they asked if they could design a structure that would enhance the facility rather than the simple, bus stop-type structure they had in mind.

While the project's goal of keeping smoking activities away from the complex's main door and still keeping residents safe through observation, Schipper says it was also complex in that it needed to keep smoking activities hidden, yet still enhancing the front yard of the facility with a sculptural insertion. Schipper describes the project as simple, if not challenged. "Complex, if architecture is attempted and all parameters are fully considered," he says.

Located away from the apartment entry, the smoker's shelter was imagined as a yard sculpture so its purpose would not be readily apparent. Conceived as an assemblage of filters to control views into the shelter, it needed to hide smokers during the day, while allowing them to be seen by security cameras for safety after dark. "The shelter is to be perceived as opaque during the day when the sun reflects off the stainless steel mesh and the occupants remain invisible," Schipper says. "Passersby see a yard sculpture. The screen filters appear transparent at night when safety concerns require the occupants to be seen."

Made of metal, wood and concrete, the 275-square-foot shelter features metal screening on the south side that is opaque from the street during the day and transparent at night. Corrugated Metals Inc., Belvidere, Ill., supplied the structure's frame of rollformed steel with a galvanized roof deck. Tampa, Fla.-based McNICHOLS Co. supplied 200 square feet of stainless steel woven wire mesh in a square weave, which along with LED lighting in flutes, filter views.

The owners wanted a low-maintenance shelter, resulting in the use of concrete, stainless steel mesh, galvanized steel deck and composite lumber. The only painted material, Schipper says, is the steel frame, which is coated with a high-grade PPG epoxy coating from PPG Industries, Pittsburgh, which was donated.

The 2015 Metal Architecture Design Award judges really liked the project, saying it is one that exemplifies everything you want to root for in architecture. Pointing out that a smoker's shelter is usually a pre-fab hut, the judges agreed that the project is something beautiful to look at. One judge even noted that there's movement to the project even though it's stationary, citing the way the concrete moves in and out of the walkway.

With a very modest budget, Schipper says the project design and much of the construction was done pro-bono. "The budget was small, but safety, beauty and simplicity could not be forgotten," Schipper says. "A fish bowl bus stop would not be enough to meet the programmatic needs. As a result, part of the project was done pro-bono, with architects and contractors donating time and material resources to get the project done; members of the studio were on-site to help build parts of the project. Instead of just being about the smokers, it became about those around them."


Corinthian Gardens Smokers' Shelter, Des Moines, Iowa

Completed: October 2013
Total square footage: 275 square feet
Building owner: Corinthian Gardens
Architect: ASK Studio, Des Moines,
General contractor: Koester Construction Inc., Grimes, Iowa,
Metal installer: Artistic Ironworks, Des Moines,
Steel frame: Corrugated Metals Inc., Belvidere, Ill.,
Steel frame coating: PPG Industries, Pittsburgh,
Wire mesh: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla.,
Photos: Cameron Campbell, Integrated Studio