Alta Community Center Feasibility Study

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Alta Community Center Feasibility Study

For many years, developing a large, multi-purpose, public facility has been a goal for the Alta Community—a small and physically remote, environmentally volatile, yet beloved mountain community in Utah. Our feasibility study not only explores innovative, responsive, and highly sustainable solutions to the challenges of their site, but it also actively engages the Alta community in the process to determine the ambition for the new facility as well as a dynamic program that will serve its diverse community.

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Before developing and design schemes, it was imperative to craft an engagement process that allowed the design team opportunities to listen, learn, and respond to the Alta community. This process familiarized the design team with the site, its context, its unique challenges and opportunities, and allowed them to better understand the people who would be using the center.

Through a series of informal interviews and workshops, the design team developed a vision statement, a spatial program, and a design. Due to the travel restrictions in place during the summer of 2020, this process was conducted in an entirely virtual format, with online meeting platforms, virtual whiteboards, websites and social media platforms. Learn more about the engagement process here. [link to e-lab community center webpage]

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Located in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a part of a network of ski resorts in that Utah, Alta is very popular recreational destination. The site of the community center is centrally located near the center of town along the town’s central vehicular route. In addition, the site is located within a robust hiking and backcountry ski trail network and will serve as a regional trailhead.

The site of the future Community Center is a beautiful and fragile one. The town has a prominent history of avalanches, which continue to impact recreation opportunities and the ingress and egress from our community. The community center building site, like many others in the town, is located within an avalanche path. As such, working closely with The Contour Group who conducted detailed avalanche hazard analysis, the proposed designs carefully and innovatively respond to potential avalanche threat.

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The “Lift” concepts, which is the scheme that Alta has selected for advancement, creates a singular architectural expression that is lifted 35’ above grade, out of the path of the predicted avalanche, and creates a covered outdoor multi-use plaza at the building’s entry. Providing access to the center from the street level is both a stair and elevator. Sitting atop of four resilient piers, the community center’s volume can be simply constructed out of lightweight and sustainable construction materials. The structure’s planted roof blends into the hillside and its organic shape is reflective of the landscape topography.

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By lifting the community center out of the mountainside, all the interior spaces are given access to daylight and views of the surrounding landscape, which is very a-typical of the buildings in the region which are more commonly built-into the hillsides and heavily reinforced. The deep roof overhang and continuous porch along the center’s southern façade provides enjoyable outdoor spaces at the upper level of the center during shoulder seasons and reduces solar heat gain during summer months.

Outdoor parking is provided on this small site below the center and parallel to SR-210, along with electric car charging, and loading. The building’s main entry is clearly defined by an incline on the ground level and an outdoor plaza protected by the building volume overhead. A stair and glazed-in passenger, and service elevators provide a welcoming and accessible route from the parking level to the center’s upper level.

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The Center includes programs that reinforce connections within the community and provide new alternatives for community activities and education such as a shared public lobby, multi-purpose space, a wellness room, education space, a teaching kitchen, a one room school classroom, a library and reading room, exhibition space, trailhead support, a central community lounge and café, and non-for-profit support offices.


Alta, UT
20,000 GSF
Lobby, Lounge, Multi-Purpose Space, Wellness/Fitness Space, Education Space, Teaching Kitchen, One Room School Classroom, Library Reading Room, Changing Gallery / Exhibition Space, Trailhead Support, Non-for Profit Support Offices


Ennead 团队
Richard Olcott, Don Weinreich, Jarrett Pelletier, Keristen Edwards, Anders Evenson, Elodie Graham, Stefan Knust, Masha Konopleva, Fangzhou Liu, Amy Mielke, Malachi Pursley, Daniel Silverman
Atelier Ten
Town of Alta Avalanche Consultant
Contour Group
Construction Management
Big-D Construction Corp.