EC3 unveils Crystal Barn, a multitasking cultural and retail space for Meridian, Idaho

No Small Potatoes

EC3 unveils Crystal Barn, a multitasking cultural and retail space for Meridian, Idaho

With Crystal Barn (pictured here in model view) serving as an anchor, the 81-acre Orchard Park development outside of Boise will be a destination where the “synergy between the architectural design and curation of tenants will create a regionally-specific destination and visitor experience.” (Courtesy EC3/High Desert Development)

Meridian, a small but rapidly growing city in Idaho’s Treasure Valley directly west of Boise, will soon be getting a multifaceted exhibition hall-slash-retail hub described as a “twenty-first-century version of the Crystal Palace inspired by the vernacular of Idaho.” Aptly dubbed Crystal Barn, the shed-like 65,000-square-foot building will be comprised of twin 350-foot-long structures and feature staggered retail spaces “envisioned as site-specific installations.” Also on tap for the “Kunsthalle-like” multi-level space are a slew of major attractions including an indoor wave-surfing pool, speakeasy, and what has been described in a press release as an “experimental gastro-hall.”

The wild-sounding Crystal Barn, which will rise in a once-sleepy Boise bedroom community whose most locally iconic contribution to the built environment is currently an onion-esque water tower, was designed by Los Angeles-based cross-disciplinary architecture and design practice EC3 for local real estate development firm High Desert Development. Anticipated to debut in fall 2023, it will be the first EC3-designed structure to be realized as part of Orchard Park, an 81-acre mixed-use development underway at Chinden Boulevard and Linder Road in Meridian (a roughly 15-minute drive from downtown Boise).

rendering of a large multipurpose hall space
Interior view of Crystal Barn at Orchard Park. (Courtesy EC3/High Desert Development)

Described as being inspired by both Marfa, Texas, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Crystal Barn will serve as one of the inaugural anchoring buildings at Orchard Park, which is set to become the “most integrated contemporary built environment and one of the most popular year-round destinations” in all of Idaho according to the project team.

“In the post-pandemic, Amazon-led world, our client recognized that the time has come to reinvent the business model of shopping centers. Instead of thinking about the business of shopping in terms of maximizing square footage for ‘points of sales,’ we are creating a memorable place to promote social encounters and share experiences for the consumer, explained EC3 founder Edwin Chan.

In addition to retail and the aforementioned attractions and amenities at Crystal Barn, Orchard Park, known as Linder Village when the project was first approved by Meridian City Council in early 2019, will include commercial office space, a range of cultural and civic programming, and over five acres of open public green space. There are also plans for multi-family residential development down the line. Other major announced tenants thus far include Boise-based supermarket chain WinCo Foods and the Meridian Public Library, which will open a new branch location at Orchard Park. The campus, envisioned by the project team as a place where the “synergy between the architectural design and curation of tenants will create a regionally-specific destination and visitor experience,” will be net-zero per the master plan.

rendering of a pizza in an indoor market hall
Piazza view of the 65,000-square-foot Crystal Barn. (Courtesy EC3/High Desert Development)
rendering of an indoor swimming pool
An indoor wave pool will serve as one Crystal Barn’s non-retail- or dining-related attractions. (Courtesy EC3/High Desert Development)

A former design partner at Gehry Partners, Chan led a number of major projects at the firm including Fondation Louis Vuitton, a modern and contemporary art center on the outskirts of Paris; the Novartis Pharmaceuticals Human Resources Building in Basel, Switzerland; the Danish Cancer Center in Aarhus, and the Guggenheim Bilbao. Chan established EC3 in 2012. In addition to Meridian, the firm is also currently helming projects in Detroit and L.A.

“In addition to accommodating a variety of activities and experiences curated by HDD, we also envision cultural institutions, art fairs, digital content producers and other creative enterprises being able to utilize Crystal Barn for shows, sound stages, productions, and other temporary uses,” Chan explained of Orchard Park’s multiuse Crystal Barn.

“EC3 brings a global vision to match our local vibe, and we couldn’t be more excited about the direction this project is going in,” added High Desert Development principals Joe Huarte and Michael John Slavin.

model interior of a mixed-use retrail and cultural building
Interior model view of Crystal Barn. (Courtesy EC3/High Desert Development)

Crystal Barn is slated for completion in fall 2023 with construction expected to commence next summer. Ahead of that in the spring, the project team anticipates that it will release full design and master plan visuals. Joining EC3 on the larger design team for the Crystal Barn project is Adamson Associates in the role of executive architect, self-described “quirky and creative” local landscape architecture firm Stack Rock Group, and engineers Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Meyers +, and Transsolar.

AN will check back in this coming spring when further details and visuals are released.