Wanted: The soft look of concrete!
Soft is not a word usually associated with concrete. Yet, soft, round and homey were just what administrators at Centro de la Familia de Utah, the coordinating agency for Utah’s Migrant Head Start Program, saw in Monolithic Domes, as they reviewed possible school designs for their new facility in Genola, Utah.
According to Head Start Director Rudy Anderson, Ms. Graciela Italiano-Thomas, their CEO, specifically wanted a building that did not look institutional. “She wanted something that was softer and more pleasing, so when the little kids came, there wouldn’t be this big, huge, brick, hard-cornered building,” Anderson said.
They decided on Monolithic Domes — but not for the usual reasons. Anderson said, “All of the savings for utilities and those kinds of things were secondary to appearance – which is probably opposite of what most people look for. They probably think savings first and then appearance. But we actually wanted the roundness of the domes. They resemble some of the homes in Latin America and the outdoor ovens many families still use there.”
A four-dome project!
A facility of four domes was designed by Architect Leland A. Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah for which Monolithic Constructors of Italy, Texas built the Airforms and Dome Technology, Inc. of Idaho Falls, Idaho did the dome shell construction.
The central dome, 101′×31′, houses classrooms, offices, a nurse’s station, an observation area, a reception area and bathrooms. An activity dome, 60′×23′, has a balcony overlooking the recreational area. Two towerlike domes, each measuring 30′×15′ and built on 17’ stemwalls, provide a kitchen, cafeteria and resource center.
Original artwork enhances shotcrete
Anderson said that students from Brigham Young University decorated the domes’ inside walls with drawings they carved into the wet shotcrete. The artists used a variety of themes – or just about anything from family to jungle scenes, to decorate Utah’s sixth Migrant Head Start School.
The town of Genola, Utah
Genola’s history as a town dates back to 1935 when it incorporated, in order to get a municipal water system. At that time, residents also chose a town name; they simply called a town meeting and held a drawing; the name “Genola” was randomly selected.
Less than a thousand people now live in Genola, and most own diary farms or fruit orchards. They depend heavily on field workers, some of whom live in the area. But the majority are Latin American migrant workers, who travel with their families, from harvest to harvest, often across several states.
Anderson said that Genola reacted favorably to a Head Start Center in its community and to the domes. “It was really interesting,” he said. "They were very embracing of it. They liked the fact that the domes are a little bit different – sort of a landmark out there now. There’s not a lot of round or dome-shaped buildings here, so the domes bring a little attention to Genola.
“But honestly I was a little surprised – pleasantly – that the city officials didn’t have any problem, at all, with the shape of the buildings,” Anderson continued. “In fact, they have been very cooperative and wanted to do whatever they could to help us and make sure it all came through.”
Center serves kids, adults and community
Some 30 children, ranging in age from birth to five, attend the Center each weekday for ten months of the year. There they attend bilingual classes, eat healthy meals and snacks, receive free medical and dental help, and play safely in and outdoors.
For the adults, the Center conducts programs in child rearing, job training, health and nutrition, English, reading, and community resources. Attendees can also earn a high school General Education Diploma (GED).
The facility has also been offered to the city for community activities.
Now that its Monolithic Domes are completed and in use, the Center is putting in a playground and landscaping. “In another six months,” Anderson said, “these buildings will look much different. We will have things – a lawn and shrubs – to make it more attractive. We are very interested in making it look good.”
Note: We first presented the Centro de la Familia de Utah story on our website in 2002.