Ground design

Contemporary and Classical Designs Win Kalispell Architecture Awards

The 2022 Kalispell Architectural Awards have been announced, with firms Montana’s Great Indoors and The Ritz honored as the best designs of the year.

The awards selected by the Kalispell Architectural Review Board are designed to recognize quality development while encouraging originality and innovation to protect and enhance the character and appeal of the town.

Montana’s Great Indoors is a new children’s recreation center, with jungle gyms, slides and more that make for a dream playground and birthday party site for kids. The venture off US 93 in North Kalispell features a 24-foot-tall climbing structure with a twisty slide, specially built for the installation and imported from Europe.

When taking on the project, Bozeman-based architectural firm Ensitio Design had to balance the needs of a large, open interior space with the desire for the exterior of the structure to feel accessible and fit in in the valley landscape.

Architectural Review Board President Julia Pierrottet praised the building’s agricultural aesthetic, noting the barn-like layout and corral-style fencing.

Speaking to Inter Lake, Pierrottet also noted how much the board appreciated the architects’ decision to distance themselves from the big-box stores along that stretch of US 93.

“We liked that they split the waist into smaller parts, so it doesn’t look massive,” Pierrottet said.

The facility is divided into two larger barn-like areas with high ceiling height to make room for climbing walls and other play structures, and they are connected by a smaller space in tunnel shape. This gives the impression of two buildings, instead of a single large box. The company shares space with the Creative Minds Early Learning Preschool Center.

Architect John Montoya made it clear that avoiding the big-box look, inside and out, was a priority for the company. During the design process, the company wanted to create a building that didn’t just look good from the highway.

“Architecture is seen from all sides,” said John Montoya, criticizing “one-sided architecture,” which he felt was too common in commercial development.

Pierrottet also praised the building’s “funky blue” exterior, something co-owner Jennifer Seibert described as a “bold choice”, intended to make it appealing to children and parents.

“We didn’t know if blue was going to be well received,” Seibert said.

The OTHER recognized WINNER is Le Ritz, the new dual-concept bar and restaurant, with a nail salon in the back.

The downtown Kalispell business sports a branding inspired by 1920s ‘speakeasy’ art deco, and Pierrottet said the committee was impressed with the decision to respect the historic building’s roots in its renovation , while bringing an innovative business model that fits a new niche.

“Historic buildings [in downtown Kalispell] all had glass on the floor to show off their wares,” Pierrottet said. “The windows had been covered by the previous tenant, and we liked that the new owners of the business made an effort to bring it back to the original [intent].”

The owners and designers chose to restore and implement aspects of the building’s original design, including a wrought iron light fixture and decorative molding that were uncovered during the renovation.

Operations manager Ben Stodghill said the Main Street business wanted to emulate one of 72 bars that operated along the Strip, serving customers at the McIntosh Opera House, which was just down the street , and others.

“We’re aiming for an art deco style, in the style of Kalispell,” Stodghill said.

The committee was delighted that the company decided to honor the historic nature of the building while implementing its strong brand image and identity with signage, lighting and decor, which Stodghill is proud to say. they were all from the region.

The revamp isn’t complete yet — the bar is renovating its downstairs into a “speakeasy” style bar, which Stodghill says will have a little more grunge than the swanky amenities downstairs. While doing their research for the renovation, the Ritz found historic photographs of the original bar and will evoke some elements of the modern version. If all goes as planned, the downstairs bar will open in June 2023.

Reporter Adrian Knowler can be reached at [email protected] or 758-4407.