Peterson Dining Hall
The passion project of Grammy-award winning musician Zac Brown, Camp Southern Ground, located on a bucolic campus 35 miles south of Atlanta, serves typical children, children on the neurological spectrum, and the children of gold-star military families. The first of 23 buildings in the 450-acre campus master plan, Peterson Hall floats lightly on the rolling meadow at the heart of the site, providing the first glimpse of the camp to visitors arriving from the main entrance. A simple rectangle, oriented east-west to maximize views, daylighting and energy performance, the building bends gently in plan to focus views out of the south side of the building toward the center of the camp and the organic farm, while providing broad views across the landscape to the north. The narrow plan footprint combined with plentiful glass provides abundant north daylight and precisely shaded south light. A gracious stairway and overhangs provide plentiful, shaded “hang-out” space for games, resting, socializing and performing before and after meals.
The design purposefully evokes a series of vernacular architectural elements: sheet-metal utility buildings; gable and hip roof forms; a front porch and rear patio; and a brick chimney and hearth. The building reinterprets and recombines these references into a contemporary whole that is both aggressive and recognizable, yet reassuring and familiar. The iconic form serves as a strong symbol for the camp and signals to visitors upon arrival that they are in a unique and special place that transcends their normal experience of the world.
Due to the preferences of the client, the building does not use any exterior wood or wood framing. The exterior palette consists of cast-in-place concrete, exposed structural steel members, and a glass/aluminum curtain wall. The primary exterior cladding is a zinc shingle system that runs continuously across the angular roof, down the vertical exterior walls, and wraps under the “hull,” which angles from the elevated dining room floor and makes the building appear to float. At the interior, the ceiling of the main dining room mirrors the folded hip/gable geometry of the roof above and is clad with repurposed mahogany planks donated by Taylor Guitars.
As the first building on the campus, the dining hall not only fulfills its primary function of feeding approximately 400 campers and staff, it also is the camp’s primary multipurpose space. The building distributes program on two floor levels—service access and kitchen are located partially below-grade while the primary dining room and dish washing are located on the main elevated floor. Twelve custom-designed food carts distribute food from the kitchen to the dining room by means of six dumbwaiters. Two vertical transfers of the dumbwaiters serve all 48 8-person tables. All eating dishes, utensils, and glasses remain on the main dining/dishwashing level with only serving dishes and carts moving from floor to floor. Folding/rolling tables and stackable chairs are stored in a room at the end of the north aisle of the dining room, making it easy to use the column-free dining space for a variety of activities and events, including musical performances.