Thanks to “The Golf Explorer” Magazine for featuring the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) and its Viewing Park, which was designed by MMA, in their 2019 edition!
The GFIA Viewing Park, owned by the airport and located at 4820 Kraft
Avenue SE in Grand Rapids, has served as a popular place for local residents, families, visitors, and aviation enthusiasts alike since it first opened in 1995. Initially a park featuring a long, serpentine-shaped parking lot and cul-de-sac with picnic tables where visitors could capture the drama of flight as planes roared down the East-West runway, the site has been transformed and elevated with a simple, yet carefully detailed structure designed by Mathison | Mathison Architects, or MMA, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“This goes back to the primary kind of architecture: it is shelter. It has columns, the building is telling you what it is doing, it is directing rain, and it has this kind of purity as a structure,” said Ben Franceschi, architect at MMA.
MMA, a full-service architectural firm grounded in modernism, is a practice striving to deliver projects that embrace its site, enrich its surrounding environment, and provide meaningful authentic experiences. Thomas R. Mathison, FAIA, principal and co-founder of MMA, indicated while the team was initially approached by Cascade Community Foundation to generate a concept, it was after considering the project’s potential to benefit the larger community that they began working with the airport to elevate the design a step further.
“It has a sense of place today that it didn’t have before, because it is a destination now. It has an identity that wasn’t there before,” Tom Mathison said. “It is a strong solution without calling a lot of attention to itself.”
MMA wove together a number of core design elements into the project that
integrated programmatic elements into a central covered pavilion and restroom structure featuring ADA accessibility that would not only provide shelter and an engaging viewing space, but also serve as an aviation-centric teaching environment for local organizations and schools.
The nearly $1.12 million GFIA Viewing Pavilion emerges from the land-
scape and at a glance is a simple structure comprising double canopy roof forms of red cedar, interspersed columns, and a metal paneled bathroom facility set upon a brushed concrete plaza. Each element is carefully detailed and placed to ultimately capture the line of flight in dramatic statement set against the horizon.
The roof form is as thin as possible and inspired by air foils and wings of aircraft; columns are cantilevered up from the ground; and gray columns are painted silver metallic to help dematerialize the columns and reflect the environment.
“The shape and form of the building is actually inspired by the trajectory of airplanes taking off and landing. When you stand under the pavilion, the roofs actually come down on both sides and as planes are taking off, they actually follow the trajectory of the roof form,” said Evan Mathison, principal and co-founder of MMA. “It’s the perfect moment. The building actually takes advantage of the moment of flight.”
Read more about Airport Viewing Park & Pavilion HERE
Learn more about Michigan Golf Explorer Magazine HERE