Obscure Design Typologies: Fire Training Towers

Fire training towers are the structures that the fire service use to practice firefighting. They mimic a range of architectural conditions that firefighters will most likely encounter: height, stairs, doors, rooms and so on resulting in constructions that almost look like buildings. We could think of them as heavily edited versions of architecture, familiar kinds of buildings reduced to a particular set of situations.

This brief image trawl seems to show up marked difference between British and American versions of fire training towers. The British versions tend to more vertical, often appearing like a fragment of a 50′s or 60′s housing block, even built from the same pallet of materials for extra authenticity. American versions instead present a hybridised model, where it seems a number of building types seem to have swallowed each other.

But if both types still look like other kinds of buildings there is one example that seems to invent its own architectural language from the programme and performance criteria of the brief. The Fire Environment Building is part of the Louisville Fire Department training facilities. Built in 1988, it is a strangely beautiful sculptural concrete thing, highly expressive yet obviously driven by utilitarian practicality.

Below is a selection of studies of fire training towers by Steven Price, one of my students at the AA this year.

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