“Contemporary architecture and interiors are unfortunately so rare in club design,” says Bob Frist, Principal at Rowland Design, Inc., the firm responsible for Crow Valley Golf Club’s facelift.
Interestingly enough, the Davenport, Iowa, club was originally designed as a contemporary space by renowned Chicago architect Harry Weese. Perhaps best known for his design of the Washington, D.C., Metro system stations, Weese—who also shaped the Chicago skyline with enough high rises to earn the title, “Chicago’s Conscience”— lent his style to the original Crow Valley clubhouse.
“It was a pristine, internationally inspired white box, full of bentwood chairs,” says Frist of the clubhouse’s original design. “Over time, the original spare and white interiors were cloaked in hunter greens, decorative paper borders, hunting scenes, and wing chairs,” he continues. “Everything this clubhouse was not and should not be.”
So Crow Valley tasked Frist and his firm to reestablish the contemporary style that had been slowly erased over the years. “The first step toward an appropriate aesthetic was stripping out all the fussy finishes, millwork and furnishings that were a total disconnect with the structure,” says Frist.
The renovation started in October 2002, and the club remained open at first, so it could still host holiday parties. During that period, construction started in the locker rooms, and work also began on the main entrance and the exterior’s brick veneer.
Then, in late December, the club hosted a “closing down the house” party, allowing members to acquire some of the old furnishings that wouldn’t be incorporated into the postrenovation décor. Full-blown restoration kicked off in January 2003, and wrapped up three months later.
Contemporary Defined “As you enter the club, the first thing you notice is the wavy wood ceiling, which sets the tone for the avant-garde architecture,” says Marc Struelens, General Manager at Crow Valley. “The clean lines that each room offers is more reminiscent of a New York loft than a Midwest clubhouse.”
Frist believes that, “All too often, people equate ‘contemporary’ with severe lines, hard surfaces, minimal details, and a restrictive interior palette of white walls, all set in a tight grid.” But to the contrary, he notes, “The [Crow Valley design] is often greeted with, ‘I never would have thought I could like this—but I feel so comfortable here.’ ”
The glass walls with stylish rectangular panes, seen in each of these rooms, were added to open up the clubhouse to light and showcase specific elements, such as the wine collection seen above. From left to right: the formal dining room, the hallway connecting the dining areas, and the wine room. The materials used in the renovation are partly responsible for the design’s warmth. Achieving a clean, tailored look was the primary goal. Clefted slate pavers and charcoal and copper-patterned carpets were integrated with glass walls consisting of four types of glass and plush mohairs—a durable, silk-like fabric made from Angora goat hair.Warm colors were selected and a theme pattern of rectangular grids was set into the architecture, visible through the glass walls sprinkled throughout the building. Art and Light Show When visitors enter the clubhouse through the main entrance, the wine room sits in a prominent location, as part of the main foyer. Frist describes the glass-encased room as “in your face” and says the boutique-like room’s bottles “filter the light and glow, almost like a large piece of art.”
Floor-to-ceiling wine racks store the house collection in full view of members and guests, and a special shelf showcases featured wines for an additional marketing opportunity. Prior to the renovation, there was just a small cluster of bottles on the bar and a wine list—a set-up that most clubs are more than familiar with. And although members can bring in their own wine for an evening, they cannot store bottles at the club. There is just not enough room to accommodate everyone who might want to take advantage of that option.
The wine room is not, despite its prominence, a place for members to sit and savor a fine vintage. They would do that in the Crow’s Nest, the club’s bar and lounge, which is centrally located and opens up in all directions. Struelens says that makes it a popular place for members to gather, regardless of where they are eating.
To the left of the entry is the men’s locker room. The smaller women’s locker room is located downstairs with the administrative offices. Both locker rooms received a facelift, and both facilities are of the same caliber, even though they are not located near each other.
Upstairs, next to the men’s locker room and straight ahead from the entrance, is the men’s grill. It is a small space that was carved out of part of the rotunda. The previous men’s grill was much larger, but the men chose to “sacrifice” it in favor of a casual dining room, as long as the grill could remain their private domain.
Down a hall to the right of the entrance lie the various dining rooms. The hallway itself also received a new look. Previously, it wasn’t much more than an enclosed hallway, with the kitchen to one side and members segregated on the other—nothing special to talk about. But now, with the addition of the same glass walls that are sprinkled throughout the rest of the clubhouse, the space has come alive.
“By removing a strategic wall section and inserting black grids of dichroic, clear, translucent and cast glass, a constantly changing play of daylight moves through [the hallway],” says Frist. The corridor no longer comes to a dead end; instead, it was opened up, to create a view into and out of the formal dining room.
The Crow’s Nest (the club’s bar and lounge) has large windows that allow light in and and an easy view out. The new casual space, called the Crow’s Café, has become the most popular dining area at the club. Prior to the renovation, there had only been one dining room and it was formal—much more formal than the current area, in fact.Where previously a coat and tie were required, now a coat is only “encouraged.” And in the Crow’s Café, the atmosphere is even more relaxed, with casual dress (including denim) allowed.
As if the Crow Valley clubhouse didn’t have enough unique features, the renovation was an opportunity for the club to knock down the traditional barrier between the front and back of the house. A portion of the new kitchen, which doubled in size and was blessed with 95 percent new equipment, was designed as a showpiece. A brick oven glows in the visible area, and the chefs can be seen as they toil over the evening’s orders. Again, the club’s signature glass wall serves as a barrier to the sound. Deeper in the kitchen, there is a chef ’s table that seats up to six and is made available to the true “foodies” and others who are dying to know how a commercial kitchen actually works. Compromising Positions Along with the benefits Crow Valley realized through the renovation, some compromises had to be made. Luckily, nothing was so drastic that there wasn’t still a way to make things work.
In addition to enlarging the kitchen and replacing the bulk of the equipment, the entrances were moved to locations more convenient to the dining rooms. Unfortunately, though, the traffic areas are narrower than ideal. An elevator was also planned to allow for easier access to the lower-level storage areas and walk-in coolers, but it was downsized in the f
inal plans to a smaller, but still helpful, dumbwaiter.
Next to the formal dining room is a private dining room that features 14-foot French doors and a curtained wall (both of which can be closed for privacy). The only problem with the arrangement of the rooms is that handicapped access to the formal dining room must go through the private area. It’s not the end of the world, but it can make for awkward moments if there is a function booked in the private area.
The general manager’s office was also relocated from a highly visible main floor location to the lower level, next to the administrative office (which did not move). This allowed for increased staff efficiency, but at the cost of visibility.To partially make up for the move, surveillance monitors were added that now allow the GM to see the comings and goings of members and staff.
Two balconies were enclosed, to increase the interior square footage and enlarge the dining rooms without affecting the footprint of the original building. There is also no loading dock area anymore, so the staff has had to adjust by now hauling trash away first via golf carts to a truck, which then takes it to the grounds building where the dumpsters are located. While this is inconvenient for the staff, it’s resulted in an aesthetic plus for members and guests, who can now walk around the entire building without having to pass by service areas. So the “curb appeal” of the property has definitely benefited.
The wavy wood ceiling greets members and guests as they enter the clubhouse. Goals Realized Crow Valley’s golf memberships are up 25 percent, from 184 to 230 post renovation. Yes, the club was more aggressive in the recruitment process, but no, it did not lower its standards or reduce its cost.
“I think the new facility was an exclamation point on the other major draws of the club: great food and no tee time golf,” says Joseph Kehoe, the current Board Secretary and a past chair of the membership committee. A recent member survey showed that 87 percent of members gave the project a four or five rating (on a one-to-five scale).
“I have to believe that the new kitchen provided an environment in which [Chef James Steffen and] his great staff could take great pride. And that pride was, in turn, reflected in the food and service,” says Kehoe.
Struelens agrees. “A big portion of our reputation—in addition to our golf course—is the food we serve,” he says.
And other clubs in the area have taken notice, too. Members at clubs that have reciprocity agreements with Crow Valley will now often dine at the club, rather than in their own dining rooms. C&RB
Club: Crow Valley Golf Club Location: Davenport, Iowa Design Firm: Rowland Design, Inc. Completion: April 2003 Cost: $4.35 million
• The new design harkened back to the contemporary aesthetic that the original architect, Harry Weese, had created.
• Glass walls with a black grid design were an integral design element that served two purposes: allowing light to permeate the building, and tying the rooms together with a theme.
• Unique features include a visible wine storage room and a portion of the kitchen made visible through a glass wall.
• The men’s grill was reduced in size and moved to make room for a new casual dining room.
• The kitchen doubled in size and most of the equipment was replaced.
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