Thaden Fieldhouse in Bentonville, Ark., redefines the modern-day ‘destination airport’. Created to serve more than the airport’s pilots or tenants, the Fieldhouse attracts and engages the broader community in an interactive aviation experience. Situated on Lake Bentonville and adjacent to the runway, this building is home to multiple functions and amenities – fixed base operator and flight school Summit Aviation, the LOUISE cafe, retail space, an exhibit hangar, and the OZ1 flying club for recreational and aspiring pilots alike. It truly is a place for all to partake in the region’s penchant for flight and outdoor adventure.
The guiding exterior design element is the roof. Transforming from a shed on the runway side, to a gable on the public side, it is ever-changing. The shed is an homage to the industrial nature of airport hangars and their mechanical functions, and the gable is an ode to barn vernaculars prevalent in Northwest Arkansas.
The Fieldhouse was conceived as a multi-use building from the onset. The hangar houses a rotating selection of air-worthy aircraft on display for the community to enjoy, but can be used for special private events, as well. The rest of the key spaces are situated on the opposite end of the building. To conceptually and visibly connect the building’s two ends, a central space aptly named “The Gateway” welcomes visitors, and quite literally serves as a gateway between Lake Bentonville and airplane parking apron. Drawing visitors in and through the space, sections of wood planks wrap The Gateway – a visual nod to the inspiring local artist George Dombek and his watercolor series of barns, 25 of which are on display throughout the building.
From LOUISE, to the OZ1 club and back lawn, a theme of hospitality materializes. To truly create a place for everyone to take part in the destination airport experience, multiple lounge zones help craft an environment that invites visitors to stay a while. Whether you’re a pilot, restaurant guest, flight school student, or community member visiting the Fieldhouse on a day off work, there’s a space catered to everyone.
Beyond taking in the spectacle of flight, visitors have multiple avenues for enjoying the lake, as well. Canoeing and kayaking is easily-facilitated with a new dock, and the boardwalk is perfect for a daytime stroll or serene evening spent on the lake.
The Fieldhouse is a monumental step for the larger master plan to restore the wetlands surrounding Lake Bentonville and increase the community’s access to outdoor recreation. Completely inspired by and created for the community, Thaden Fieldhouse celebrates the region’s deep history in aviation, and propels it toward a growing future.