Dena Levitz is a digital strategist and freelance writer in Dublin whose work has appeared in such publications as the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Crime Report.
“It makes you want to smoke so you can be in it.”
These days, there are few habits considered more passé than smoking. New York City started the smoking ban trend, but now lighting up is limited or outlawed in a staggering number of public spaces in cities all over the world. As a result, smokers are often relegated not just to the outdoors, but to restricted, designated spaces away from building entrances that may or may not provide any shelter.
That’s why one of the more surprising architectural creations being recognized within the design world this year is a shelter specifically for smoking.
The Corinthian Gardens Smokers Shelter is a 275-square-foot structure in Des Moines, Iowa, created by local architectural firm ASK Studio. It’s located near — but not too near — an apartment complex and is used as a smoking oasis for residents of the building. Last month, Residential Architect recognized the work as one of the three winners in the “outbuilding” category for its annual awards competition.
“It’s the sort of structure that has the feel of a private clubhouse for the tobacco-initiated,” juror Cary Bernstein said, in recognizing the project. “It makes you want to smoke so you can be in it.”
Brent Schipper, a founding principal of ASK Studio, says the project was for a longtime client who needed to come up with a creative way to keep smokers away from the building’s main entrance. The solution they conceived was a sort of yard sculpture that would not be “readily apparent.” A sidewalk leading from the complex’s established parking lot provides a path to the smoking shelter, which is “nestled among the shadows of the surrounding trees,” according to the project statement.
“The space was required to ‘hide’ smokers during the day, but allow persons to be seen after dark and by security cameras for safety,” Schipper explains.
To accomplish this feat, architects made the shelter with concrete and composite wood, and metal screening on the southern side is opaque from the street, creating the illusion of invisibility during the day.
“A shelter for smokers may seem a counterintuitive undertaking,” Schipper says, “but it is there for safety and to make a better aesthetic for the community.”