Sound Design, Sound Student Bodies
Schwartz Athletic Center Wellness Center Addition, Widener University
Responding to a growing need and desire for convenient and appealing fitness choices, Widener University added a 28,000-square-foot Wellness Center to the Schwartz Athletic Center. The new center showcases the life, activity and energy of the campus, and gives students a new place to see and be seen.
"The Wellness Center represents the need expressed by students for a state-of-the-art facility that would encourage and enhance the health and wellness needs of the campus community," said Corina Wagner, director of the Wellness Center. "This new facility fulfills that request by complementing the Widener University motto, mens sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body."
Adding to the existing, outdated Schwartz Athletic Center presented some unique challenges. The addition provides a new entry on the opposite side from the former main entry, making the Wellness Center, as well as the gyms in the athletic facility, more accessible to students. Designers also reconfigured 17th Street to take a curved approach to the facility,
ultimately creating a more pedestrian-friendly link to the rest of the campus.
"We took an old, tired building that people weren't able to use and had to walk a great distance to reach and made it more usable and accessible," said Keith Russeau, an architect with The Collaborative Inc. "By doing this addition on the other face of the building, it made it easier for people to get to it."
Working with the existing building's multiple previous additions led Russeau and the design team to start with a curved roof. Now the curved roof and two-story entry to the facility provide an open, voluminous feeling, contrasting sharply with the old structure's stark appearance. The addition provides outwardly focused spaces where patrons inside can enjoy the beauty of the campus, while those outside view the activity and energy within.
"It's kind of a balance between simplicity and complexity," Russeau said. "It's clean, but at the same time, it has a lot of complex connections and geometries. I think that balance worked out well."
Once visitors walk through the new entrance, they see a large, open staircase, which is anchored by a two-story maple and aluminum-clad trophy wall, one of Russeau's favorite features of the new facility.
"It organizes the entire plan, which is on a radial pattern," he explained. "It anchors the major stairs that go up to the second floor. On one side, it houses trophies. The university needed more space for that, and it's a nice feature wall on that side. On the back side, it has all kinds of cubbies, lockers and benches that are particular to the fitness component, and that occurs on both levels."
The Wellness Center is intended for use by non-athletes and provides a wide variety of equipment and programming suited for exercisers of all levels.
"The Wellness Center offers a variety of programs to support, promote and maintain a safe, healthy living and learning environment," Wagner said. "All members have the opportunity to participate in group exercise classes, climbing wall instruction and certification classes, and equipment orientations. Student-specific programs include a full schedule of sports and recreational events and competitive club sports."
One highlight of the new facility is a two-story climbing wall, which provides an exciting view of the activities taking place within the center from outside.
"The addition of the climbing wall incorporates an exciting component to traditional workout routines," Wagner said. "The wall was specifically designed for Widener with detailed features and feel mimicking that of a real rock. In addition to the 24-foot climbing wall, the facility houses a 53-seat multimedia classroom, two group exercise studios, six flat-screen TVs and new, award-winning cardio and strength-training equipment, all of which create a great attraction to the Wellness Center."
The building incorporates large amounts of glass to maximize daylighting and views, but that also presented challenges in terms of heat gain and glare caused by direct sunlight. To mitigate glare and solar gain, designers used broad overhangs and a long, deep canopy, as well as a 10-degree sloped curtainwall system.
"The building does incorporate a large amount of glass, and because of the master plan, we actually located this building addition on the west side, which is traditionally the worst place to put a lot of glass," Russeau said. "Curving the roof and having the long, deep canopies cuts off a lot of the sunlight from entering the building directly and reduces heat gain. The sloped curtainwall also reduced a lot of the direct sunlight into the building."
The results of the hard work paid off with a state-of-the-art Wellness Center that provides large, flexible spaces and a wide range of activity choices.
"The Wellness Center has been a huge hit on campus with students, faculty and staff utilizing the many resources the facility has to offer," Wagner said. "The numbers speak for themselves with over 53,000 workouts logged since the Wellness Center's grand opening last year. The floor plan also lends itself to a bright, open space that creates a friendly and welcoming environment for all members."