In 1998 the doors of the renowned Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse opened – a gift to the city of Boulder, Colorado, from the people of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Also in 1998, the dream for a reciprocal gift was formalized by the Boulder Dushanbe Sister Cities Organization. Barrett Studio architects was selected in 2001 to provide architectural services and assistance in realizing this vision.
Desiring a facility that brought technology to Tajikistan – in which the majority of citizens do not own a computer – and furthering the concept of exchange, the Dushanbe Friendship Center was born. Envisioned as a manifestation of Boulder & American, values and spirit, the Center brings technological openness, sustainable materials & systems, and the fostering of community to the Tajik people in a distinct new building embedded in a major public park. The sculptural solar array celebrates alternative energy sources, and is particularly valuable as the country’s electricity demand far outweighs its supply in winter months, and rolling outages are typical.
Barrett Studio architects provided site analysis and concept + schematic design iterations for several sites, while navigating the changing political makeup and garnering governmental signoffs at key points. Following final Site and Schematic Design selections, Sustainable systems, Indoor-Outdoor use potential, and Materials & Detailing guidance for the construction team were integrated. Construction Documents were completed in a simplified format to ease interpretation on the ground in Dushanbe. Finally, Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment specification and Construction Administration were completed with a hybrid system of on-site travel and weekly internet conferencing via Skype, allowing a diverse team to proceed with minimal delays.
Paramount through the entire process was effective communication and coordination with both the Boulder Dushanbe Sister Cities Organization and the government and local engineering & building team in Dushanbe. These drawing and communication controls resulted in an on-budget project delivered across cultures and at great distance. Another important design factor involved balancing construction techniques, details, and materials / systems not prevalent in the area – but acknowledged in the United States as Sustainable Building Practices – with a recognition and honoring of timeless local building materials and traditions.
The result is a 4,700 square foot environmentally friendly community center that embodies its mission of sharing in an environment both innovative and familiar to the Tajik people. Significant fundraising assistance was provided by BSa by means of in-kind donations, professional service donations, and graphics & model production and distribution, as well as lecturing on the importance of the building as a gesture of generosity.
The Grand Opening of the Friendship Center in November of 2008 was well attended and featured a “digital ribbon cutting” via a simulcast between Boulder and Dushanbe.