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Owls in the Community: Architecture Students Plan Rec/Senior Center

Conceptual drawing of the rec/senior center

If plans for a new combined recreation and senior center in Keene come to fruition, you can thank Keene State architecture students—and alumni—for getting the ball rolling.

The idea for the multiuse center came after Donna Paley, an associate professor in the Sustainable Product Design and Architecture Department, solicited potential projects from the city and local non-profit organizations for her students. “Andy Bohannon ’94 [Parks, Recreation & Facilities director for the City of Keene] got right back to us and suggested the project,” said Paley.

“We’ve done several projects with the Keene State architecture students and thought it would be a good activity for them as well as the city,” Bohannon said. “It would allow us the chance to see if it was a possibility and what it might look like.”

Pegg Monahan ’72, Executive Director of the Keene Senior Center, agreed. “It really gave Andy and me a real chance to verbalize what we were looking for in a way that we haven’t done it before,” added Monahan. “It was an opportunity for the students to transform ideas into an actual concept.”

The Senior Center, currently located on Court Street, and the Recreation Center, on Washington Street, have diverse members and programming with the seniors using the building during the day, and those interested in Recreation Center activities utilizing the facility in the evening and weekends. Moving both groups to the Washington Street location offered several challenges for the students. Ben Kelly, a junior architecture major, said the biggest obstacle was trying to fit as many rooms as they could into the existing building.

The students got some words of wisdom from Mike Petrovick, a Keene State adjunct faculty member and a partner in the local firm of Catlin and Petrovick Architects who have done extensive work designing senior community centers in the northeast.

Shannon Haley, a junior from Munson, Massachusetts, said she enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the project and the reaction her group got from their clients. “It was very rewarding when we went up for our final presentation,” she said. “I remember our (design) board was on the screen and I looked over and their eyes lit up.”

“I had an interview for an internship last summer, and I told them about this project and how we had a real client,” Haley added. “One of the architects in the office said [they] didn’t work with real clients until grad school, so that was a nice thing to hear.”

Bohannon said there’s an internal committee looking at the project who will report back to the city council to see if combing the two centers is feasible. “The whole point was to get a different perspective and allow the students to have hands-on, real-world experience working with community members,” he said.

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