MMW Architects | Missoula Shade Shelters - MMW Architects

Missoula Shade Shelters

Providing shade is a crucial piece of the puzzle to address human and community needs in a changing climate. This is especially important in lower income neighborhoods which often lack street trees and places of relief from the summer heat. The design team partnered with local non-profits, Climate Smart and Home ReSource to design and build these much needed shelters. The design is adaptable and easily reproduced with the end goal of providing multiple places to rest, gather and refresh during the heat of summer. So far two shelters have been completed and the third is currently under construction.

Shelter #1 is situated along the popular Milwaukee Trail amongst restored native parkland adjacent to the Clark Fork River. Shelter #2 is located in a more industrial part of town on a leftover triangle of land beside another well used community trail. Each form is derivative of its orientation. Computer modeling was used to ensure the shelters completely shade the seating area from noon to evening all summer long.

Constructed of recycled wood framing from deconstructed buildings, as well as construction site off-cuts and rebar, these shelters are highly sustainable examples of reuse and up-cycling. The simple, repetitive nature of the design means that the structure can be assembled at Home ReSource by volunteers.

The layout of the wood blocks was carefully thought out to provide the necessary opacity for shade while also being transparent enough for a sense of security within the shelter. The result is a dappled light that shifts as the sun moves across the sky, connecting the occupant with their surroundings. Supported by a cluster of welded rebar reminiscent of the native grasses in Montana, the structures touch the ground lightly, appearing to float amongst their surroundings.

This project has been an ongoing example of true community achievement built with volunteer efforts. The Shade Shelter is a tangible way to raise awareness of the changing climate and human needs in the community.


2018 – AIA Montana Honorable Mention – Shade Shelter – Missoula, MT
2018 – USGBC Mountain West Leadership Awards – Most Successful Community Engagement – Milwaukee Trail Shade Structure – Missoula, MT
2017 – Climate Smart Missoula – Smarty Pants Award – Milwaukee Trail Shade Structure – Missoula, MT

Photo credit: Jacob Hixson