It All Adds Up—and Down
The Pavilion at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Among the 13 campuses that comprise the University of Wisconsin school system, Milwaukee's campus had the least amount of recreational space per student. That is, it did until late 2005, when an addition to the Klotsche Center added 135,000 square feet.
Referred to as The Pavilion, the $33 million project essentially doubled the size of the original 1977 Klotsche Center and provided fitness areas exclusively for student recreation, along with permanent offices for the athletic department and academic programs, as well as more parking.
In the past, if there was an athletic competition going on, it tied up the whole facility. Likewise, a weight-training class would shut down the entire weight-training area. Now there's a separation between athletics and recreational sport, with space dedicated to both.
"It's really nice to give students in between classes a place to work out and not worry about whether it's open or available," said Steven Mohar, director of recreational sports and facilities at the university.
The tricky part of the design was where to find that space, including added parking.
"The campus is in a fully developed urban area, making space a precious commodity," said Jeffrey J. Piette, principal architect with Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater Architects (and, incidentally, a UW-Milwaukee alum who remembers working out in the old building). In addition to the city setting, a state-regulated nature conservancy surrounds the building on three sides, "further limiting expansion of the footprint," Piette explained. To overcome these site challenges, the addition was built up, four stories of parking were built down, and the whole project embraced its environment.
The design team created the building, four levels of underground parking and a new street—all without adversely affecting any of the trees in the conservancy.
"In fact, the setting itself became a main design inspiration," Piette said. "A massive curved two-story glass wall in the fitness center offers panoramas to the nature conservancy, as well as the urban neighborhood, and helped meet student expectations for more natural light and increased air flow," he added.
While the old building has very few windows, the new space invites natural light.
"It's really just a nice space to come into," Mohar noted.
Because this facility was planned for recreation, not competition, the design team didn't need to worry about things like glare during sporting events. So, for instance, the elevated running track makes liberal use of transparent and translucent windows. Placement and tinting of windows, called "cool daylighting," not only allows for this wash of daylight inside, but reduces the need for artificial lighting and, in turn, reduces energy costs.
The windows also have a bonus at night: "By providing views back into the building, there is a vitality to the campus long after the academic buildings have gone dark for the day," Piette said. Even a long north-south corridor on the upper floors was widened to allow for views and natural light to stream in. Open-air bridges connect the new and existing building, establishing clear sight lines and encouraging interaction.
The interior design also takes management and maintenance into account. Durable materials, including terrazzo floors, impact-resistant drywall and built-in solid maple benches are used throughout the building. A new central reception/control desk is easily visible to both the quiet campus entry on the west side and a more prominent entrance on the east side for spectators attending special events, Piette explained.
Outside, the exterior marries visually pleasing design features with functionality. The reddish and brown color scheme complements the brick used in other nearby campus buildings, and copper panels mimic the siding of the existing building.
Besides coming in under budget due to a favorable bidding economy, the end result has been even more successful than those involved had imagined.
"We were surprised at how quickly student use of the facility increased after this project," Piette said. "It turned out that there was a large segment of the student body that wasn't using the existing facility for a number of reasons, and this project enticed them to become regular users.
The Pavilion contributes to student health both literally and psychologically, and it has elevated the profile of the campus in the community.