Our primary challenge was designing a space that supported such an important change in curriculum, within a modest budget, and multiple site constraints. We also needed to provide a space that did more than meet the functional requirements, but would also serve as a source of motivation supporting instructional goals.
The addition includes a large open space for fitness equipment, a climbing wall, restrooms, and storage. An existing corridor adjacent to the addition was renovated and a storage room was converted into a classroom. We organized the addition to enable students to move easily between physical education spaces, including a multi-purpose room, competition gymnasium with locker rooms, the new fitness space, and outdoor playing fields.
The entire facility was designed around the premise that fitness can be fun for the entire class, not just students that excel at team sports. The space was designed to support the potential for enjoyment and inclusiveness in the curriculum. A tower element was incorporated to house and celebrate the climbing wall. Vertical glazing highlights the wall on approach from the outside and an open barrel ceiling in the fitness area gives the space an airy, expansive feeling. Views to the outdoors provide visual relief for students working out on stationary equipment. The material and finish choices kept the budget reasonable while providing space that is durable, functional and students said they enjoy.
Of the energy-conscious features we included in the design, the most important was passive management of daylight. The space is flooded with light through large windows on the north and south elevations. Controlled daylight washes the barrel ceiling of the fitness space through small west facing windows and, with the available daylight, the space can be used without turning on overhead lights. When they are in use, light fixtures are energy efficient, relatively cool and provide uniform diffuse light. Deep overhangs shade direct summer sun, reducing the need for mechanical cooling. Lights and climate control are timed to reduce energy use during off-hours. Lights can be turned off manually when not needed. Acoustically, the combination of rubber floor and hard vertical surfaces reduce excess sound and allow a teacher’s voice to be heard without strain.
- 2009 Award of Merit, Excellence in the Design of Educational Environments, Illinois Association of School Boards