Some people can’t help but look at a floor plan or walk into an empty building and automatically think where their kitchen or computer desk should go. The gears begin turning and that urge to set that new community coffee pot in the perfect place before the walls are finished writhes in their brain. It’s small picture-type stuff.
Architect Darrin Berger wants to help break people of that need to plan the interior before a blueprint’s been drawn up and given approval. He thinks from an elevated point of view when he starts working on a bigger project like Carson City School District’s 1600 Snyder Ave., site. He has to be able to help move the process along, and it starts at the “50,000-square-foot level,” saving everything insignificant for later.
“People get hung up on the details and they’re worried about, ‘Is there a break room in the building?’ ” he said. “There’s this minutiae. We get to that point, but we don’t want to get bogged down in that. And so you kind of hunger for stuff like that.”
Berger has been one of the school district’s trusted consultants throughout the years to keep its schools maintained and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He’s been the local choice for single point-of-entry needs. While the district will call on other firms from Reno, perhaps Van Woert Bigotti Architects for other large-scale work, Berger Hannafin’s resources might be more limited but his insights and personal touch remain valuable. He’s a Carson High School graduate who’s served on local boards and worked on local projects. His imprint on the community remains on favorite restaurants, community buildings, medical facilities and subdivisions, but Carson City School District’s capital needs are ever versatile.
“We’ve had a long relationship with the school district; they try to keep me honest,” he said with a grin.
His involvement in assessing the Snyder property is a labor of love and a satisfying mental challenge that he was excited to pursue. The former Capital Christian land hardly was intended to take on the equivalent of a Carson City school’s typical 400 to 600 students per day. The old church that suddenly closed but opened fortuitously for district Superintendent Richard Stokes and staff to consider has been a brief survey to determine its purpose for Carson City schoolchildren.
Stokes has repeated to the trustees during the last half of 2019 the need to consider Carson City’s flourishing growth as the region expands. Few other options are available to accommodate more outsiders from other states or regions. Stokes and his staff need the professional eye of an architect to understand Snyder’s structural shortcomings and its boons as a campus for teachers and students.
Berger says his mind is wired to help solve this problem without letting these smaller impediments get in the way.
“I love doodling, but I also love structure and I love stuff that functions,” Berger said. “I tell kids if you don’t know what you want to do in life, study architecture because there’s so many facets that can appeal to you.”
Helping Carson City School District with 1600 Snyder Ave., is an act of service. Berger is a consultant tasked by Stokes to help after building a long relationship with the district assisting on other projects that ordinarily are “less glamorous,” like repairing restrooms and locker rooms. After all, who really wants to install toilets for a living? Berger asks.
But it’s important work for Carson City School District’s students and staff.
Berger Hannafin has installed single points of entry within the past five years in all of Carson City’s schools and aided with fencing and front office remodeling projects.
It didn’t matter what the need was. Berger went and helped.
“We’re very fortunate to have that (relationship),” he said. “What’s great about doing it, what makes it satisfying is it affects the community. Our efforts are seen and utilized by the greater community. … That’s what appeals to me.”
Berger is looking critically at dire needs. There’s a noticeable lack of exits in case of emergency. The kitchen is in the wrong place and isn’t big enough. Ramps will have to be installed. Restrooms will have to be upgraded. The playground, the driveway, the campus, overall, have problems, but they’re problems that Berger is willing to help solve, and the process motivates him.
“You walk out on that site, and there’s a huge potential and there’s no right or wrong answer,” he said. “There’s all these ideas about what we can do and how this can work. There’s a lot of moving parts to it.”
With Snyder, where so many stakeholders are involved, the process has been complicated not only by dealing with an existing building that never was intended as a public school that would have to be upgraded into one but to rise to the challenge of listening to all the feedback that’s been gathered in recent months.
“You have to deal with all these parts and pieces, and you have fire trucks and delivery trucks and underground utilities and drainage and it just keeps going and going,” Berger said. “But that’s what’s cool. You put them together and that’s what’s appealed to me.
“But people get bogged down. ‘How big is that door?’ Well, don’t worry about doors right now, I’ve tried to explain to them. We’re looking at this thing from 50,000 feet from ground level right now. We’re talking about a 30,000-square-foot building and somebody’s worried about a 100-square-foot room. You take them all in, and you’ve got to inventory them; it’s a sequence of information.”