The art behind the Arlington Heights Police Station
A closer look at how designers used brick and stone to fit the Arlington Heights Police Station into a traditional municipal campus
The Village of Arlington Heights’ (Illinois) new police station has improved efficiencies, storage, safety, and training capabilities. It even received an American Public Works Association national Project of the Year Award for its “excellence in management, administration, and implementation.”
With all the discussions about the facility’s community room, high-tech labs, firing range, and simulation training space, what often gets overlooked is the building’s artistic merit. Though the station appears to have been there for many years, it was finished in December 2018. Clearly, room function and layout were critical considerations during the design phase, but the Village of Arlington Heights and Legat Architects also faced a major challenge in creating the facility’s exterior appearance.
The New Kid on the Block
In early 2016, the village tasked Legat with the station’s design. Lead designer Steve Blye, an Arlington Heights resident since 2005, knew he had his work cut out. The 70,500-square-foot station would complete the village’s downtown municipal campus by connecting the traditional-looking facilities on either side of it: a village hall built in 2008 and a fire station built in 2006.
“One of the things that attracts so many people to Arlington Heights,” said Blye, “is the historical appearance of our municipal, educational, sacred, and commercial landmarks.”
The station’s design needed to not only complement its neighbors (and the village’s traditional downtown developed over the last 25 years), but it also needed to give the station its own identity so that visitors could easily distinguish it.
To achieve the goal, the team turned to building materials . . . namely brick and stone.
Fitting in and Standing Out
The station’s design uses brick and stone masonry like the other campus buildings and the nearby train station.
“Rustic, textured brick and stone masonry were the natural choices,” said Blye. “They relate well to the village aesthetics, are easy to install in various patterned and arched configurations, are available within the Midwest region, and fit the construction budget.”
To differentiate the station from other historic-inspired buildings, the design team drew inspiration from the scale and proportions of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, created in the nineteenth century by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Characteristic of this style are arches, towers, and heavy masonry masses, all of which the Arlington Heights Police Station employs.
The team took additional steps to make sure residents can quickly distinguish the station from nearby structures. For instance, not only is the station’s upper-level brick lighter than the dark red brick of adjacent buildings, but the facility also has a limestone base and large arches that help residents identify it.
According to Blye, the masonry and the bold arches suggest “stability and a warm gathering place . . . a place for the municipality to become a community.”
One strip of a basket-weave pattern stretches across the top of the facility to further set it apart from other buildings. Additionally, the station’s textured brick catches sunlight and creates decorative shadows at key building areas along the top of the brick walls and tower, and below the roof eaves.
The use of brick also promotes cost savings for the village: whereas the station’s street frontage facades use elaborate traditional brick and limestone almost equally, the frontages at the north, northwest, and northeast façades, less visible to the public, transition to primarily brick masonry.
Brick Manufacturer: Glen-Gery Corporation
Brick Distributor: Illinois Brick
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