Upward and Onward
North Dakota State University Wallman Wellness Center
Fargo, North Dakota
However, the site provided some challenges to expansion. "At the earliest stages, we had a good idea that what they wanted was not going to fit on the ground," said Brian Beckler, senior principal for Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative.
The site was limited on all sides as well as below due to a high water table and the possibility of flooding. "We couldn't go horizontally," Beckler said. "The only possible way was to go vertically and try to push and pull horizontally wherever we could. Because we were connecting to the existing building, we had to make logical connections."
According to Beckler, it was also really important to the university that the new building maintain the same look as the existing facility so that the entire facility was one complex and there wasn't an "old" building and a "new" building. "They wanted everyone to perceive it was all built at the same time," he said.
So up it went, literally, positioning the newly expanded three-court gym, the multi-activity court and the elevated jogging/walking track on the second floor along with other studio space. "We took the second floor out over existing parking and dropped columns," Beckler explained. "We didn't take away any parking. Instead of open air, you're driving under the building."
The design team was able to push a portion of the building down, locating the racquetball courts and a viewing area downstairs and reinforcing with redundant waterproofing systems.
The gym and track area are showcased through glass, allowing students to have a full view into the gym and track areas. "There's definitely a 'wow' factor on the second floor," said Gary Fisher, director of the Wallman Wellness Center. "There's a lot of natural light, which is very important in this climate. It's a lot nicer to run on an indoor track when you can see outside."
Interior glazing was important too, Beckler said. "We put more glass in the center of this type of facility than there often is and locating glass in areas you wouldn't normally," he said. "This was all to make sure that even though it's cloudy a lot in Fargo and there are months of winter, you always feel connected to the outside when you're inside and you're always connected inside when you're outside. You see activity and motion on the interior and highlight the people element. It's something special we tried to integrate."