The Drexel University Daskalakis Athletics Center (DAC) is an integrated sports facility that forms a distinctive center for collegiate and community activity along Philadelphia's Market Street. The expansion adds significant space for recreation to the existing athletic facility and the contemporary design bespeaks Drexel's position at the cutting edge of technology and engineering education. The DAC engages the street by offering several points of public access and transparency that provides views of the activity within. The DAC has become an activity hub for campus groups and student clubs, as well as a major destination for diverse community programs such as ROTC and public schools in West Philadelphia. Drexel's enrollment for fitness activities greatly surpassed planning expectations, with over 2000 active non-student members, making the building a true center of community for the campus.
The overarching design directive was to improve the appearance of the recreation center on the west, south, and east sides, with a uniquely Drexel expression that would allow daylight inside and broadcast the vibrant life within to the outside. The main strategy was to design the large gymnasium as a central box visible from the main circulation and peripheral activity spaces while activating Market Street with two stories of weights and fitness—spaces that benefit from a narrow floor plate and views to the outdoors. Another pivotal decision was to include a major public access route straight through the building from the existing recreation center entry on the lawn, down along the existing wall all the way to Market Street. This grand cascading promenade creates the required fire separation between existing and new building areas, provides a shortcut through the block, and offers views into the gym. An outdoor plaza on the more secluded side of the building faces one of the campus's few green spaces. The plaza itself is a colorful, permeable rubber surface that becomes an outdoor extension of the gym for exercise classes, dance, yoga, and even commencement.
The final design is as much a site solution as it is a building addition. From an urban design perspective, the mission was to give Drexel a new and prominent presence on Market Street by utilizing the newly acquired 18-foot strip of land that separated the recreation center from the sidewalk and by extending the façade the entire length of the block, all the way to 33rd Street. The two Market Street corners of the site are transformed into outdoor cafes, allowing the large public lobby along this street to become a multipurpose function space that expands and contracts with the weather.