Andy Johnson (Founder and Principal of DAJ DESIGN) is a longtime Colorado resident and the Architect of Record for EVO Rock + Fitness Louisville (“EVO Lou”). He spent two years as Board President of Center for Resource Conservation in Boulder, six years on the Board of Directors, and sat on the Louisville Sustainability Advisory Board. He has gratefully grown his roots in this town with his wife and two daughters. He talks with EVO Lou on his path as an architect, why this project is so meaningful, and when he hopped on board.
Andy Johnson knew he wanted to be an architect from the time he was a youngster growing up in Nebraska.
“I watched my dad build our home in Omaha, which he resurrected from an old farmhouse,” Johnson explained, “ever since then, I knew becoming an architect was ‘it’ for me.”
Johnson obtained his Bachelor of Architecture Degree through University of Oregon’s five-year, accredited program. While he was a student, he worked with ZGF Architects; a highly influential U.S. architectural firm, and number one in the nation for sustainability according to the Journal of the American Institute of Architects.
While working for ZGF, Johnson also had a foray as a pro triathlete, racing Olympic distances with the International Triathlon Union. However, after sustaining serious injuries when competing in Puerto Rico, he retired at age 33. But his biking days weren’t over.
In 2004 (one year after moving to Louisville) Johnson and three friends started a cycling team that has grown from four to 80 people. It’s now one of the premier amateur teams in Colorado. “We’ve even sent some young guys from the team up to the pro level,” he said of the organization called Sonic Boom Racing.
So how did this architect, cyclist, and pro-triathlete come to be involved with EVO Lou?
“I was in my old DAJ DESIGN office when Clint (Dillard) walked in and said ‘hey man, I really love your houses—want to build a climbing gym?’” Johnson recalled, laughing. “They don’t make a person as high quality as Clint.”
Johnson got to work, and Dillard went to the Climbing Wall Association (CWA) where he met Hilary Harris. Harris, a licensed architect herself, had designed three EVO gyms already. When Dillard returned, he introduced Johnson to EVO, and Harris to Johnson. Collaboration began.
“From there, Ryan Costner (DAJ Project Architect), Hilary, and I worked remotely on Skype for three or four months. Costner developed much of the 3D modeling work, and helped generate the form of the EVO Louisville facility.”
“It’s been a collaborate effort; I think the people involved have really made it what it is,” Costner said.
“I think the most important part of the story of this gym is how cohesive and how good our team is at working together, but also liking each other,” Johnson agreed.
Johnson reflected on the cross-pollination of ideas in which the team decided upon the structure of the gym. “We were definitely limited by the building of prefabricated steel; it’s a building model that has its own rigor, but it was a fun process. I think being a bigger gym and also all of us wanting to push the envelope a little bit allowed us to create something really unique.”
The design layout has been customized to cater to the gym’s inclusive atmosphere.
“The EVO model to me breaks all the barriers of ‘I’m not the Boulder climber,'” Johnson said, “Boulder is a very intimidating place! My first (bike) ride was with two National Champs and a dozen pro athletes, and I was thinking, ‘I won’t survive.”
Johnson remarked that his favorite thing about the EVO model is that it’s very inclusive, which is important for the sport. “This is a community with kids who like to climb. Having the ability to cater to the beginner in a full range, up to competition, is just so cool and unique,” Johnson said, speaking as a dad.
Abe Rifkin, (DAJ Associate Architect) attended CU to study architecture and has been passionate about climbing since moving to the Front Range eight years ago. “I may be biased, but seeing the space progress and watching the design of the climbing walls develop, I think it is going to be the best gym in the area. I am also looking forward to how EVO will affect the local population and give them a great facility to connect with the sport,” he said, “It has been extremely exciting to be a part of the EVO project.”
The convergence of DAJ, Built. Construction, and EVO has already fostered connections and strengthened relations.
“I’ll be really sad when the job is done. You just don’t have this happen very often,” Johnson said of the synergy, “we’ve all become friends.”
The project will be done, (January 2017), but Louisville will be even more united.