To connect the first- and second-generation Hmong and East African immigrant culture within St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, JLG and St. Paul Parks & Recreation fully engaged occupants to create an inclusive community center that promotes the well-being of their generationally diverse community. To learn what this facility needed and reflect the vibrancy of their cultures, we sought out the voices that were not being heard. JLG set up a table outside the annual cultural festival and entrance to their neighborhood’s grocery store. Learning how vital it was to foster stronger engagement with the Hmong community of Frogtown, JLG arranged a meeting with the Hmong through their local marketplace and discovered how impactful a Kato court would be to their youth. A Kato court was then incorporated into the athletic field, leaving St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to state, “(the) place is alive with the use of all the young people.” Inside, as the focal point of the main circulation area, the team reflected the community’s vibrancy with custom, artist-designed terrazzo tile, and a locally sourced art mural with curved metal strips creating “ripples” at each entranceway. The colors in the terrazzo are repeated throughout the building and ripples for a cohesive, playful, and calming feel. Their unique community is also reflected in the design of the artist’s frog pond which represents the community’s geography, and varying colors of frogs to represent the diversity of cultures. In the east to west hallway, art mirrors function, mapping out the lifecycle of a frog from eggs and tadpoles near children’s rooms, to larger frogs near teen rooms and adult centers, making a full transition to the front entrance’s overlapped ripples and lotus design – a progression that aligns perfectly with the building’s fun, inclusive, and colorful wayfinding.
Photography by Silverman Be Remarkable.