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Helen Drake Senior Center

Formerly known as the Manzanita Senior Center, the new Helen Drake Senior Center was re-named in honor of Helen Drake, a visionary in the field of municipal services for seniors in Phoenix since the 1970s. Originally conceived as a place to meet for weekday meals, senior centers throughout the city have come to serve a greater role with continuing education classes, exercise programs, commodity distribution and a multitude of social/cultural events orchestrated by members. The Manzanita community of seniors had a distinct interest in the configuration and outcome of their new home, and participated actively in the design effort from conceptual schemes to the selection of furnishings and finishes.

The new center, built on 4.46 acres of land in a residential neighborhood, replaced its previous home in an outdated strip mall. The design revolves around multipurpose space for daily meals and special events, flanked by classrooms, a library, a computer room and adjacent outdoor seating decks. Natural materials, clear acoustics, daylighting, user-friendly wayfinding, and universal principals for accessibility formed the basis of design. The structure is exposed, revealing a variety of colors, textures and spaces for small visits or large events. Sustainable components include: 40 kW solar array, recycled materials, light & temperature sensors, pervious paving at the parking lot and shade from over 108 native trees. The stage area located in the main interior gathering space also opens to the exterior along the east entry courtyard for large events during the temperate months. Home to an expanding senior community, the Helen Drake Senior Center design strives to inspire connections: person-to-person, inside-to-out, and whole-to-part.

“I am so pleased with the work that you and your staff are doing to make Manzanita a wonderful place for the users to attend.  Having worked on several building projects over the years I know how difficult it is to please everyone, but your efforts to do that are notable. Thank you!”

Jerlene Malone, Human Services Department, City of Phoenix









phoenix, az 

13,100 sf

$3.8 million

winter 2012

brignall construction company


woodward engineering

gbtwo landscape architecture

bill timmerman

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2012 ENR Best Small Project

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