The devastating flood of 2008 left several Linn County government offices without a home. Among them was Options of Linn County, a publicly operated service that works with community businesses to provide employment opportunities for residents with physical and mental disabilities. In addition, decades of expanding county services had left various departments spread out across the city of Cedar Rapids and surrounding towns.
The Linn County Board of Supervisors retained OPN Architects to design a new 97,000 sf facility that would replace the departmental offices lost in the flood and bring together all the community services departments under one roof. The design team utilized their knowledge on topics such as color theory, specialized lighting and disabled-friendly amenities to create a highly functional, efficient, durable and cost-effective building that all county residents would be proud to visit.
The plan diagram was inspired by the creation of an exterior courtyard to be used by the Options consumers, many of whom are in wheel chairs. The courtyard includes four stone sculptures – one for each season – created as part of the County’s dedication to art in the community.
The design concept derived from a desire to create a modern and inspiring building without being ostentatious or institutional. Clean lines and a white canvas were the perfect background to allow the design team to use color and material in carefully chosen locations to maximize the visual impact of the building while minimizing the cost. On the exterior, white metal panels contrasts with vibrant wood composite panels, providing a fresh and welcoming appearance.
The main lobby and atrium of the building features an installation truly unique for this community. Seven floor-to-ceiling canvases feature enlarged prints of paintings by Grant Wood, each one representing a department housed within the building. Grant Wood, a Cedar Rapids native, painted these images in an around the city, especially developing an affinity for the rolling hills and fields of Linn County. The installation is not only visually stunning, but also inspires visitors to the building to remember the beauty, success and enduring quality of the county they call home.