Just south of California’s state capital Sacramento, Elk Grove is a modest city with big ideas for the future. Back in 2006, the City Council launched an international design competition for a contemporary civic centre which could be moulded by its residents and provide a community hub for the city.
London-based Zaha Hadid Architects was selected for the job, hand-picked out of 23 sterling proposals from around the world, with local practitioners Stantec to work as Executive Architects. Soon after the selection, Elk Grove embarked upon a comprehensive consultation process with telephone surveys, online questionnaires and multiple interactive workshops, and AECom was requested to undertake a thorough financial analysis.
This examination period lasted for two years and generated a healthy list of amenities desired by local residents, including: a library; children’s museum; hotel; conference centre; performing arts facilities; and a sports field. In December of last year, Zaha Hadid Architects led a public workshop where three differing design scenarios were presented.
No specifics were formulated by this point, simply basic concepts such as a cluster of buildings near Elk Grove Boulevard pared against an even spread of facilities. Two months later the team returned with two advanced versions of the original concept designs, addressing the gathered residents as clients. Distribution of amenities was top priority at this point, with a public forum created to encourage visitors to share honest opinions of Zaha Hadid Architects’ proposals.
This week, the City Council met to decide on a final scenario. The design selected clusters the facilities at the northern end of the site, leaving the remainder of the location open for sport-based amenities which it is hoped will generate additional funds for the city. Although the chosen concept is still to undergo additional refinement, some stakeholders have already aired their views on what has been termed ‘an octopus plus a starfish’ proposal.
Jeremiah Shaffer told the Elk Grove Citizen: “This project appears to me to look like a short-term civic centre and not how you want to develop the city afterward. This needs to tie into some greater masterplan. Elk Grove can think big. I know that it’s not designed, but it’s very limited to the near future and it’s short-sighted.”