Design/Build Competition for Soccer Installation Engages Sunnyvale Kids / by SHOKO SMITH

On any Saturday, 60 or more kids and their families are playing in the Sunnyvale Park, many of them kicking a soccer ball.  In this area of Salt Lake County, about 40th South and 7th West, a new attraction in the park is a soccer training wall and target practice designed by a group of young architects and architectural students.  It is the result of a Design/Build Competition won by a team which named their design WEST, for Women Engagement Society Training.

The team which included GSBS Architects' Ron Rezvan, won The Sunnyvale Project, sponsored by Salt Lake County – Women in Architecture.  According to Ron, the Sunnyvale neighborhood hosts a large refugee and immigration community. “The competition was for a public installation to create fun soccer-related activities and to encourage youth immigrants to use their public amenities,” he said. It is working!   “Our design team could really identify with the kids and their families because we know what it is like to live in a new country.” 

Ron and his team of three men and three women designers are all Iranian or Iranian-Americans. He, Massih Nilforoushan, Zahra Hassanipour, and Ardavan Tookaloo all went to Tehran University of Art for their Bachelor of Architecture.  Reihaneh Noori is working on her Master’s degree in architecture at the University of Utah and Elaheh Zarezade recently graduated.

The competition specified a $4000 budget and strict schedule for “an environmentally conscious design.” Accordingly, the team created a wood structure that has a target practice net with round targets made from used bike tires, fixed seating and a solid training wall, and uses recycled materials in its construction. The installation is now an active location in the park. 

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Along a busy stretch of 39th South near 6th west in Salt Lake County, The Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center is tucked among warehouses and small manufacturing businesses.   Here, a growing number ofrefugees and immigrants residing in the Sunnyvale Neighborhood receive English language classes, after-school programs, and other services. 

Local architects, like GSBS’ Soonju Kwon, Tang Yang and Kevin Miller, and engineers provided design services, permitting and construction assistance to add 1,350 square feet to the Center.  This additional flexible space will help the Center continue to provide services and programs that benefit the refugee and immigrant community.

According to Soonju Kwon, the center, which was first located in a two bedroom apartment in the Sunnyvale Apartment Complex, relocated to the strip center, and now has expanded to serve people living nearby. She said members of the firm worked in cooperation with the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah which operates the Center, Salt Lake County, and other businesses which volunteered their services, including VBFA and Manuel Masbernat who volunteered the engineering consulting.

Kwon said services at the Center include English classes, afterschool programs, citizenship classes, financial literacy workshops, mobile health clinics, nutrition education and more. “In the summer, they even have a farmers market and meat vendor which is supported by a USDA grant, to provide fresh produce and meat to the residents which don't have a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood,” she said.

Residents face many barriers created by this location in the intersection offour cities (South Salt Lake, Murray, Taylorsville, and Unincorporated Millcreek) and the unincorporated area of Salt Lake County. 

Salt Lake County's Community Innovation Manager, Ze Min Xiao, said the location means the area falls outside the service areas for funding from those cities.  Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center was formed to bridge this gap. The County provided $100,000 last year to enhance services in the area,  but she said businesses like GSBS Architects who provide pro bono services help us to extend the opportunities.  She said nearly 13% of SLC County's population is foreign born and the goal is to help them succeed. She said,  “The county recognizes the potential of the neighborhood, and county and private resources are need to help these 'New Americans' succeed.”