The Fieldhouse at Thaden Field in Bentonville, Ark., redefines the modern-day ‘destination airport’. It has been a monumental step for the larger master plan to restore the wetlands surrounding Lake Bentonville, and increase community access to outdoor recreation.
Our design approach merges client and user group with context into a cohesive concept. The consideration of people, places and concept is our guide for creating meaningful work.
Thaden Field is named after Louise Thaden, a mother, aviatrix, record setter, barnstormer and Bentonville native. Her record-breaking career was one of many firsts: she was the first woman to win a National Air Race and the Bendix Trophy, and she raced against friends like Amelia Earhart and Opal Kunz to win the first Women’s Air Derby. From the Fieldhouse and its embodiment of the barnstormer era, to the LOUISE café, Louise Thaden’s unyielding love for adventure can be felt
Take it to present day, the goal was to create a space that embodied Louise’s unyielding love to adventure, and inspired pilots and non-pilots alike. The Fieldhouse was designed to engage the community in the aviation experience.
Thaden Field borders Lake Bentonville, is adjacent to multiple public parks, and near multiple community attractions like pickleball courts, an archery range, indoor climbing gym and a brewery. The airport is also a convenient refueling stop for pilots because of its centralized location on the U.S. map.
The leading exterior design element is the roof. The shape transforms from a shed on the runway side, speaking to the industrial nature of airport hangars, to a gable on the public side that pays homage to barn vernaculars throughout the state.
The central ‘Gateway’ space welcomes visitors and visually connects Lake Bentonville to the airport parking apron. Clad in wood planks, the Gateway is a visual nod to local artist George Dombek and his watercolor series of barn structures found across the state.
The Fieldhouse was conceived as a multi-use building from the onset. The building is home to the airport’s fixed-base operator, Summit Aviation flight school, LOUISE café, OZ1 flying club and an exhibition hangar. The hangar houses a rotating selection of aircraft, including aerobatic planes, bush planes, helicopters, and vintage warbirds that still take off using the airport’s turf runway. The FBO, flight school, flying club and LOUISE comprise the other half of the building volume, each with a view of the airport runways or Lake Bentonville.
Embracing its local, regional and national context, the Fieldhouse merges aviation, hospitality and recreation in a single program. Since the Fieldhouse was completed, Thaden Field’s primary runway has been extended 600 feet to accommodate larger aircraft, growing the number of Fieldhouse visitors and users.