Civic & Culture Projects to Watch in 2023

Landmark civic buildings and public spaces are pivotal in defining the quality of life in a community for generations. From a joy-filled, hands-on museum that will inspire children to become inventors of our better future to a community-focused sanitation district headquarters that is healthy, beautiful, and respectful of rate payers’ dollars these civic and cultural developments foster inclusion and participation and inspire discovery.

“These projects represent the broad range of building typologies addressed by our Civic team across HDR," said Design Director Kate Diamond. "They demonstrate the power of design to help clients address social, economic, and environmental responsibility with beautiful designs that meet the functional and economic requirements of each client’s unique mission."

Here’s a short list of community projects set to come online this year:

Kiewit Luminarium 

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

As a glowing beacon on Omaha’s RiverFront, this science centre is part workshop and part museum. Designed to help inspire the next generation with an interest in STEM, the Kiewit Luminarium aims to become a dynamic, family-friendly destination when it opens in April 2023. The interactive museum offers visitors engaging exhibit experiences with sweeping views of the Missouri River and downtown Omaha.

From the design team:

"The Kiewit Luminarium is a thrilling endeavour for a new approach, getting students, educators, and families in the region exposed to and interested in STEM. Our client is creating a new paradigm in destination venues with its pricing structure, programming, and outreach. There is a lot to be excited about in terms of what they will do within the facility."
— John Dineen, Project Principal

"From the moment you step into the building, it just feels nice. You get nice lighting; you get the view. You're inside and comfortable, but you can also feel like you're outside and have access to nature. I'm very excited to bring my kids here. It will be interesting to see how other people perceive it."
 — Rebecca Cherney, Lighting Designer

"Our architects had created really nice renderings depicting the backlighting of the entire façade early on in the design process.  Our lighting and electrical engineering teams immediately knew we had a big challenge on our hands to achieve that look - those preliminary images looked like a fantasy from a technical standpoint.  But with the total buy-in and commitment from the design team, the contractors, and the suppliers, we made it happen. The end result is really impressive!"
— Randy Niehaus, Electrical Engineering Principal 

Read more about the Kiewit Luminarium

Hidalgo County Courthouse

Edinburg, Texas, USA

In the great tradition of placing the courthouse on a grand square at the centre of a city, the new Hidalgo County Courthouse sits in the heart of Edinburg, Texas. The design of the courthouse makes justice accessible to all in the community and stands as a reflection of the Rio Grande Valley it surrounds. From an arrival sequence through native landscape, to integrated security and clear wayfinding, and expansive views providing plenty of daylight — the new courthouse aims to reduce stress for court attendees and improve the experience for those who work there. While phase one of the project was completed in 2022, a second phase will be completed later this year. 

From the design team:

"I’m certain this courthouse will become a beloved and memorable symbol for justice. Not only does it keep the jobs, people, and public services in the heart of Edinburg, it captures the iconic character of the Rio Grande River Valley in the Talavera Tile motif of the Bris Soleil and the native landscaping of the park . Equally importantly, in keeping with the County Commissioners’ promise to the community, the courthouse design is very economical, avoiding a tax increase, and is sufficiently durable and flexible to address decades of rapid growth in Hidalgo County." 
— Kate Diamond, Design Director

"When this building opens, citizens and courthouse users are going to quickly realize that it is a new day for justice in Hidalgo County. No longer will judges, juries, staff, victims and in-custody have to share the same hallways, elevators and restrooms. Stress levels may be lessened further when staff and public finally have access to natural light and adequate space. And efficiencies will be realized by having all courts and related departments under one roof, making it not only easier for staff but also for citizens to navigate the judicial system." 
John Niesen, Courts Planner

Read more about the Hidalgo County Courthouse

OC San Headquarters Complex

Fountain Valley, California, USA

A sanitation district headquarters built to foster community and reflect the county’s commitment to sustainability? That’s exactly what Orange County Sanitation District Headquarters Complex aims to emulate. Designed to uphold OC San’s environmental mission, the net-zero operational energy, LEED Gold targeting, hybrid mass timber design is carbon conscious while supporting the health and wellness of OC San employees and visitors. Interactive exhibit space within the lobby welcomes community members and schools to learn more about the building and the Sanitation District’s purpose and history of serving the healthy Orange County community. The building is currently on track to complete construction in late 2023/early 2024. 

From the design team:

"After years of planning and design by our HDR multidiscipline team and working in step with the OC San executive leadership, I’m excited to see our dream of this building become a reality. This OC San Headquarters Complex is a new home for staff that reflects the agency’s mission and values of integrity, inclusion, honesty and respect.  It captures our shared commitment to the environment by pushing the boundaries of sustainability with the first hybrid steel mass timber commercial structure seeking net zero energy in Southern California."
— Valerie DeLoach, Associate Education & Science Principal

"From the moment you step inside the building, you are immediately greeted by the beauty and elegance of exposed mass timber construction. It is a one-of-a-kind design that challenges typical industry construction methods to drastically improve the embodied carbon performance of the building. I am excited that our client and our design and construction team have helped lead the design industry towards more sustainable solutions that elevate the human condition."
— Vartan Chilingaryan, Area Building Engineering Services Business Group Manager

"To me, this project embodies resilience and the community of architecture: From design to adoption of mass timber, through agency reviews and supply chain and budget volatility, and most recently through a stressful moment as our contractors kept all the timber dry during California’s relentless flooding…  At many moments, working through our doubts or concerns about this project ultimately improved it… All because of the care and devotion of its many “parents”:  steadfast owner, architecture and engineering team, and construction team… a community of hundreds that never stop pouring their very best care towards this project."
— Yunnan Allen, Senior Project Architect

Read more about OC San Headquarter's Complex

The Haven

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Transformed from a Phoenix inn, The Haven is an innovative 90-day transitional shelter providing older homeless adults with a safe and mentally supportive environment to receive refuge and on-site support from Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) and partners. The new building will feature private bedrooms and bathrooms, a communal kitchenette, a pet run, and other site amenities to create a humane, supportive space for an aging and medically at-risk population. Based on best practices in wayfinding, vibrant colors and symbols inspired by the Sonoran Desert help residents navigate and orient themselves around the shelter and site. Large-scale murals painted on the building’s exterior elevate the facade while evoking positive, welcoming sentiments for the occupants and community. CASS hopes to have up to 50 rooms available to residents by the end of the year.

“Across the U.S., cities are looking for ways to rapidly provide nightly, humane shelter for increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness. Concurrently, hotels shuttered by the pandemic have sat vacant, leaving holes in the fabric of life in our cities. The Haven provides a solution to both issues, and in doing so, becomes a model for humane shelter spaces in the region and beyond."
— Katherine Dudzik Smith, Senior Design Architect

Read more about The Haven