Co.Design

Not A Joke: Pharrell Builds A Stunning, $35M Afterschool Space For Kids

The $35 million Pharrell Williams Resource Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, will provide a dazzling place for kids to do their homework.

Pharrell: rapper, producer, fashion designer, muse, and now... patron of do-gooder architecture!? Move over, Brad Pitt!

The N.E.R.D. front man has plans to build a $35 million, 30,000-square-foot youth center in his hometown, Virginia Beach. Designed by Chad Oppenheim of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design, it's a futuristic tree house, of sorts, with glass-and-steel boxes jutting out from the canopy of a lush little forest. There, kids will be able get help on their homework, tinker in a digital music lab, and meet with mentors, among other activities. The Pharrell Williams Resource Center is slated for completion in 2013. It's being built in partnership with the city of Virginia Beach.

The project got underway after Pharrell and Oppenheim met at the art love-fest, Art Basel, in 2008, and bonded over a shared vision to "make the world a better place," the press release describes. 'Pharrell had a unique experience growing up with a local educator that gave him the confidence to pursue his talents,' Oppenheim tells Co.Design, "and he wants to provide the same atmosphere for future generations."

The cynics among you might scoff: Another celebrity, another vanity project. Maybe you even assume Pharrell isn't involved at all -- that he's just slapping his name on the side of a building and letting others do the dirty work. But before you judge, consider this: Pharrell has been a generous patron of Virginia Beach over the years, having funded programs for school supplies and Thanksgiving-turkey donations. He is paying for the Pharrell Williams Resource Center in part out of his own pocket and will help campaign for the rest of the capital. He'll also be involved in developing the center's offerings. In short: Pharrell ain't frontin?.

It's worth asking why he selected such a razzle-dazzle design when you could provide the same services with something more modest (and cheaper). Says Pharrell:

I believe the architecture of a building says a lot about its soul and I wanted a building for the center that makes a statement to the world and the kids, something that will stand as a monument of optimism, and felt Chad was the only architect that could capture that. We want the building to look like something out of the future, so it will inspire the kids in it to aspire to greater things.

We're generally not much for starchitecture or celebrity projects, but something like this we can get behind -- noblesse oblige with a social conscience and a little style.

[Image courtesy of Oppenheim Architecture + Design; hat tip to ArchDaily]

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