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Award Winner - May 2012

Southwest Recreation Center University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida



S U B M I T T E D    B Y

RDG Planning & Design in Des Moines, Iowa

Size: 40,755-s.f. addition & 12,546-s.f. renovation

Project Cost: $11.8 million

Quick Tour:

  • New entry
  • Expanded strength/cardio space
  • Personal training studio
  • Multipurpose activity room
  • Athletic training
  • Massage therapy
  • Jogging track
  • Stretching area
  • Café
  • Administrative area & support spaces

To see and be seen is the core idea behind the new addition and renovations to the Southwest Recreation Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The design has totally transformed the image of the facility, with plenty of glass allowing views into and out of the facility, sustainable features and an innovative art installation.

The exterior glass wall showcases user activity with transparent views into the facility, while providing picturesque views out to campus. Taking advantage of these views, the strength and cardio fitness spaces include an upper-level 1/9-mile jogging track overlooking the main cardio equipment space. The track unifies both levels of the open plan with its additional overlooks into the main entry lobby and student lounge.

The offices for the Department of Recreational Sports, like the fitness areas, take advantage of glass walls to maximize views. The office suite uses a curving wood faced wall as a visual backdrop for the reception area and executive conference room. These rooms adjoin and maintain views of the control desk and main entry.

Several existing areas were also remodeled to accommodate the expanded program, including existing cardio fitness space, which was converted into a personal training suite; as well as the existing marketing department suite, which was remodeled to add a conference room and student work space. The existing entry lobby was converted into student lounge space, providing a place to relax, play games and enjoy some refreshments.

The exterior materials blend nicely with the rest of the campus, partly due to university standards calling for a particular type of brick. Other materials include an abundance of high performance glass within aluminum curtainwall systems consisting of horizontal sunshades to control solar exposure. The south façade curves to gently expose more of the elevation to the west to position this building as a welcoming beacon to those entering campus from the southwest.


Interior spaces use warm white tones with areas of color to accentuate student services, and to provide a strategic visual backdrop. Wood veneer wall covering was used for primary vertical circulation between the cardio fitness levels, while another curved wall provides a backdrop for the recreation office reception and executive conference room. Matching wood surfaces are used at the lockers, reception desks and on selected cabinetry.

Colorful images on vinyl wall graphics were incorporated into high-traffic areas of the day locker and activity room corridors, adding a sense of motion and energy. Translucent gator skin pattern vinyl was applied to the windows of the student lounge to achieve visual separation. This gator skin pattern is reflected in the terrazzo floor at the lounge and entry lobby.


The facility is the subject of many sustainable design initiatives and is targeted to achieve LEED Gold certification. For example, 24 Precor elliptical machines connect to the ReRev system, which captures the kinetic motion of aerobics exercise and converts it into productive renewable energy that feeds back into the building's electrical system.

Bio-swales create an artful approach to stormwater management. Tight site constraints and necessary stormwater storage required that the stormwater management system be placed in the front yard. An innovative art installation called "Thirst" turns stormwater management into an opportunity for creative expression. Sculptural columns suggest a root structure of the palmetto palm, symbolic of common denominators between plant and animal and our shared dependence on water. Water is represented by blue light that illuminates the bio-swale path at night. The art installation's light columns are mimicked at the entry, where an arrangement of columnar lights changes colors as it beckons users inside.




W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"Nice clean design—good update to the existing structure. Not a complex program, but a good solution for maximum use of space. Interesting punches of color and accents that make for a minimalist interior expression without being sterile."

David Sprague

"Nice use of materials and lighting. The exterior invites you inside to play and work out."

Scott Ferrell

"Good integration with site."

Howard Blaisdell



A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architect-of-Record: RDG Planning & Design

Civil Engineer: Brown & Cullen

Construction Manager-at-Risk: Charles Perry Partners Inc.

Environmental Graphics: RDG Planning & Design

Landscape Architect: RDG Planning & Design

Lighting Designer: RDG Planning & Design

MEP Engineer: TLC Engineering for Architecture

Structural Engineer: Structural Engineers Group



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