Student Recreation Facility



Chicago, IL



University of Illinois - Chicago



2.054 acres



152,000 sf | 14,121 sm



Student recreation center including fitness areas, group exercise rooms, 4-court gymnasium,  education rooms, climbing wall, racquetball courts, natatorium







       (developed as the Design Director of Dewberry)



Higher Education / Recreation



Mediating Varying Urban Velocities Edge Conditions.


The University of Illinois at Chicago has had an extraordinary history that’s more than a century old, evolving out of the needs of the people of Illinois. It traces its origins to several private health colleges founded during the late nineteenth century.  Its current campus established in 1965 was designed and master planned by Walter Netsch of SOM.  Today the University is comprised of almost 30,000 students and the one of the most diverse schools in the country.  As diversity continues to be a hallmark of UIC, with no racial or ethnic majority among its students, the culture of UIC becomes an ever evolving aspect of its campus.


Having an east and west campus creates opportunities that are unique to UIC.  The East Campus Recreation Facility at the University of Illinois – Chicago is part of a larger campus-wide recreation facility plan implemented by the University.  The multiple recreation centers are intended to be an asset for the student body and more broadly, a recruitment tool for the University, keeping in step with schools of similar size.


The East Campus Recreation facility aspires to become an ongoing destination for students and at a macro level, a gateway for the University.  The articulation of the massing derives its strategy from the mediating of the idiosyncratic context of its outward edge condition. The architecture modulates itself with the expressed attempt at revealing the interior primary functional areas influenced by varying physical velocities based on its location…an expressway on one side and pedestrian walkways and streetscapes on the others. This strategy is evident along the Halsted Street elevation, a place where pedestrians will read the building at a slower velocity. Along the expressway, the massing uses a simpler definition, relying on the materiality and transparency for its articulation.  The intention is to carry the sensation of differing velocities into the building’s horizontality. It evolves the blurring of movement which informs the placement of openings in the skin, and their articulation on a more formal level.


Given a program driven by functional relationships, combined with the compressed site, the planning diagram utilizes an interior courtyard as the primary organizational device.  As the courtyard typically has an imagery of being a traditional meeting and gathering place within the college community, this project has taken its essence and internalized it by incorporating it into the center of the facility.  It evolves into a place of movement, vertically and horizontally with major spaces fronting the atrium, with the rock-climbing anchoring its northern most edge.