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Unveiled> Ashland Youth Center
Vibrant youth center will bring needed energy to struggling East Bay town.
RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture

Ashland Youth Center
Architect: RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture
Developer: Alameda County Redevelopment Agency
Location: Ashland, CA
Completion: Late 2012

If Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts go through, there may be fewer projects like the Ashland Youth Center, which was organized and funded by the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency. A woefully underserved community in the East Bay, Ashland is getting a 31,000-square-foot youth center, whose various recreational facilities (public café, fitness center, art room, computer lab, library, etc.) will hopefully draw an audience that can also benefit from the health clinic, career center, and counseling office.

Sonoma-based RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture, a specialist in public work, has developed a design that engages the surrounding four-acre park and creates a distinctive presence on an arterial thoroughfare. The façade plays with scale, mimicking a three-story building that is really two. Aiding the illusion are bands of light boxes, used to augment the real windows, making them appear taller. The windows alternate with blocks of porcelain tile. To invite the energy of the park in, the building is arranged around a central courtyard, and some of the spaces flow right outside. For instance, a dance studio opens up through folding doors to create a stage with outdoor seating.

Ashland Youth Center

The architects held regular meetings over three months with a group of local teenagers, and incorporated their preference for dark, sober colors and an urban edginess. “We were looking for a way to create an iconic image, which would be respectful and relevant for many generations,” said principal Mallory Cusenbery. “There is a strong difference between what youth want and what adults think youth want.”

Lydia Lee