GSBS Architects

Project to Watch: Utah State Prison Design to Emphasize Rehabilitation by SHOKO SMITH

The main design goal of the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City is to focus on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates. Photo Credit: Conceptual Rendering by Prison Relocation Commission

The main design goal of the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City is to focus on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates. Photo Credit: Conceptual Rendering by Prison Relocation Commission

SALT LAKE CITY — Locally based GSBS Architects, designing the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City, presented design ideas to the state legislature’s prison development commission in late September. As the architecture firm continues to gather ideas from hundreds of modern correctional facilities across the country, its main goal is to create a campus that focuses on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates, according to theAssociated Press.

“The new correctional facility allows Utah to expand treatment and programming opportunities for inmates,” said Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook. The modern design will replace the current facility that lacks adequate, flexible space for treatment, rehabilitation, education and job-training programs that prepare inmates for a successful, safe and lasting re-entry into society.”

GSBS Architects, working with national architecture firm HOK and Miami-based CGL on project design, presented several design layouts and shapes for the 130-acre prison campus that will have the design and space necessary to promote the state’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative to help with inmate rehabilitation. The plan is to create a comfortable setting for lower-threat inmates to help prepare them for life after incarceration. That could include having dining halls for inmates in lieu of eating in their cells. Another option would be creating an appointment system for inmates to schedule haircuts instead of standing in line at a specific time, reported the Associated Press. The design would also do away with guard towers typical of prison projects of this kind, according to FOX 13, a local news outlet.

“We have an opportunity to design a facility that is focused on what's best for public safety, and incorporates the best practices in security for the facility and that's very exciting,” Cook said.

Officials announced in late September that the closing agreement to buy land several miles west of Salt Lake International Airport should be reached this fall. Designs for the exterior of the prison won’t be done until next year, with construction to follow. Construction of the 4,000-bed prison is expected to cost $550 million and is scheduled for completion by fall 2020. A joint venture between Salt Lake City-headquartered Big-D Construction Corp. and Phoenix-based Kitchell (called BDK) was chosen to serve as the project’s management and technical consultant, while a joint venture between Layton Construction Company and Okland Construction — both of which have offices in Salt Lake City — are serving as construction manager.

Lawmakers funded $80 million in cash to begin the process of moving the prison from its existing site in Draper, replacing the aging facility and making room for land that could be developed, according to FOX 13. The project could have the potential for a 1,000-bed expansion, but lawmakers acknowledge that the state could eventually need a third prison site if the inmate population continues to grow.

GSBS Architects Named “Firm of the Year” By Women In Architecture by SHOKO SMITH

To recognize healthy workplace environments, The Salt Lake City organization “Women In Architecture” initiated an annual award for the Firm of the Year.  The recipient of the 2016 award is GSBS Architects, selected for excellence in creating a forward-thinking, flexible and employee-oriented work environment.

In acknowledgment of the importance of the award, GSBS principal David Brems said, “Our long time practice of hiring a diverse staff has led us to empathetic, mindful and environmentally-responsible design solutions.” 

Women in Architecture, SLC, was established 4 years ago to help equalize the gender gap in the profession by advocating, supporting, mentoring and creating a strong community of women in the field of architecture in Salt Lake City.  The criteria for judging were career development, flexibility, communication, benefits, diversity and inclusion, and firm amenities. 

The nomination form, prepared by Kelsey Madden, Erin Holcombe, both architectural interns, and Clio Rayner, AIA, LEED AP, stated:  “71 team members strong, our firm runs on a clear understanding and passion for people.  We believe that the best architecture is born out of consideration and respect for the individuals for whom it is built – their origins, values, purpose, location, and aspirations. We strive to create a sense of place and a sense of purpose for both our clients and our employees. This is what makes GSBS so special.”

Rayner said the GSBS team is comprised of members ages 21-71 from all over the world, including people from many U.S. states, Canada, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Poland, Brazil, Romania, Bulgaria, Iran, Bosnia, Guatemala, and Mexico. She said five different disciplines – architecture, planning, landscape architecture, interior design, and economic consulting – are housed in an open-office environment, which encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing between disciplines. Women make up 45% of the workforce, and are represented at every level from board member to the newest interns.

“GSBS offers many career development opportunities for employees at every level,” Rayner said. “The office holds monthly meetings highlighting new projects, professional experiences, and education on new technologies and there are frequent training sessions focused on technology to teach employees best practices and office standards.”   She said the firm also encourages mentorship through small “studios” designed to answer questions, give assistance, and provide personal advocacy.  

On the lighter, side, the nominators described the make up of the firm as: 32 Empowered Women, 37 Moms & Dads, 19 Outdoor Enthusiasts, 16 Volunteers, 11 Dog Lovers, 1 Synchronized Swimmer, 3 Tri-athletes, 5 Car Fanatics, 8 Amateur Chefs, and 1 Crazy Family.   

Rayner said, “ We work hard together, play hard together, and genuinely enjoy the company of our colleagues. We believe that everyone is an important part of the team and we work to foster an environment where people can continuously grow and thrive and through that we deliver the best design.”

Public Plazas Need to be Friendly by SHOKO SMITH

You would think after centuries of urban design, there would be a checklist of dos and don’ts for urban designers to make sure every new plaza and town square is public friendly. But over and over again, I see millions of dollars wasted on public plaza designs that don’t work, or don’t work as well as they should.