This project was a challenge as it required the designers to place a massive, 560,000 GSF structure in the heart of an established campus without disrupting the pedestrian flow or overpowering the surroundings. Adding to this challenge was the client’s and architect’s desire to enhance the overall campus environment by providing both indoor and outdoor spaces that would further the sense of campus community. Within this mega structure are the campus recreation center, an aquatic complex serving both recreational users and varsity competitions, and an academic unit with classrooms, labs and office spaces.  Attached to the complex is a 600-car garage.

Site planning issues drove the basic design concept. From the outset, the architects strove to create a cluster of smaller structures, a “workout village,” in keeping with the campus environment and facilitating passage around and through the site. By taking advantage of the natural slope of the land, a design was created with plaza decks, steps and ramps that provide pathways across the top of a lower level and between the above grade “cluster” elements.

With its visceral interplay of light, space and social energy, the facility presents an image of kinetic motion and vitality. Glass walls contrast with precast concrete and flat seam stainless steel panels, marking the various interior functions. Blue glass and blue façade lighting distinguish the natatorium from the gray glass and white lighting of the rest of the facility. Large expanses of glass provide a close connection to outdoors for the occupants engaged in physical activities and serve to inspire those passing by to come in and get active.

The massive concrete encased columns give the structure a sense of stability and permanence befitting a building of this size. Large expanses of interior glazing, allow natural light throughout the complex and showcase the activities within, though care was taken to use translucent glass around areas of more intimate usage such as multi-purpose rooms. A red glass enclosed crescent walkway starts in one of the buildings and ramps up to a second level bridge crossing before traversing the main building and terminating at a balcony overlooking the main space. Balconies and throughout intersect major interior spaces for visual eavesdropping and allow easy orientation to the space. Integral color concrete block gives the interior a natural look that, along with the use of glass and concrete, ground the building to the earth.

To maximize open space on the site as much as possible, gyms were stacked together, requiring difficult structural calculations with no design precedents. In response to client desires for no external shading devices, nine different exterior glass types were used to selectively control the sunlight that enters the different spaces.  The widespread use of exposed structure required careful study of structural and mechanical systems that would not be concealed from view.