University of New Haven David A. Beckerman Recreation Center
University of New Haven | West Haven, CT
In 2004, the University of New Haven embarked on a $90 million plan to transform UNH from a commuter school to a residential university. The first building of the initiative is the David A. Beckerman Recreation Center. Located on a prominent site adjacent to the main campus entrance, the building presents a striking 15-foot-high glass wall along the entire length of its street façade, allowing views into the building and showcasing the activities within. In the words of Steven Kaplan, the university's president, it is designed as "a billboard for the university," announcing UNH as an exciting and growing community. While the building plays a key role in promoting the university to the outside world, its primary function is to serve the school's students. On its opening day more than 900 students used the facility, and this initial enthusiasm has continued to grow over the years.
The center provides much-needed recreation facilities in an inviting environment. The building is full of open spaces—flooded with natural light—that offer a wide range of activities and state-of-the-art fitness equipment. At the heart of the building is the main gymnasium which has two wood-floored courts and a multi-activity court, above which a jogging track is suspended. A 6,000-square-foot weights and fitness room is spread over two levels with an interconnecting atrium and stair. Two group fitness studios feature sprung wood floors and wooden ceilings. The extensive use of wood in these rooms creates warm, sophisticated spaces that are used for a variety of activities from yoga to spinning classes. On the lower level, in addition to support facilities such as the offices, equipment room and lockers, are two glass backed racquet ball courts with a small viewing area. Additional amenities include a juice bar, a lounge space with a table tennis and foosball tables, wireless internet, and computers.
Among the challenges presented to the design team was the requirement that the project be realized within a modest budget. In response, the organization and massing of the building is unashamedly straightforward, achieving a highly efficient plan layout and adopting economical structural and material solutions. The building is essentially composed of two distinct, interlocking elements. The larger of these is the simple volume that houses the gymnasium. Formed with a pre-engineered steel frame, and clad in silver and white aluminum panels, this element is placed at the northern edge of the site where it both addresses the street with its expansive north facing window, and shields the rest of the campus from the traffic. The smaller element is a low bar that slides along the south face of the gymnasium and houses all additional spaces such as the two level weights and fitness room, the multi-purpose rooms, and the lounge areas. This element is constructed with a traditional steel frame and, while there are still generous expanses of glass, broad areas of red brick with white framed windows are introduced in response to the traditional campus buildings that surround it.
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