The University of Maine: Student Recreation and Fitness Center Orono, Maine
S U B M I T T E D B Y
Cannon Design in Boston
Size: 88,000 square feet
Project Cost: $25 million
Multipurpose activity court
Convertible racquetball/squash courts
feasibility study conducted by the University of Maine told the university one thing clearly: Students wanted improved recreation and fitness space. Previously sharing space with athletics, the university wanted "to create a space that was attractive to students," said Kenda Scheele, assistant to the dean of students.
It was also important that the building be "green" as the campus is very committed to environmentally friendly policies. The building was built to achieve LEED Silver certification and is awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Additionally, the building needed to fit into its natural environment in Maine. "One of the things they were interested in was the connection to the outdoors and sustainable features," said Colleen McKenna, AIA, LEED AP, and vice president with Cannon Design. "The design reflected their environment with natural materials."
Peter Hourihan, project principal of Cannon Design, noted some of those materials, such as the use of copper clatting and a northern New England quartz stone that is found on the outer walls. There's also a large glass element that wraps around the building, providing glow and animation from the outside and giving users natural light and views. "When you walk into the building, it's very bright and airy with a lot of natural feel," Scheele said. "It's a very Maine-ish building, with lots of rock on the outside."
The 88,000-square-foot facility comprises a three-court gym, multi-activity court, fitness center, suspended running track, multipurpose rooms and support spaces along with a natatorium that Scheele described as having a very "Scandinavian spa feeling to it." There is cedar on the seating and walls with warm tones and southern exposure making it "an incredibly warm and comfortable environment to swim in," McKenna said. Additionally, the natatorium features an intimate personalization. One of the small glass windows has a ceramic coating applied to the glass that is in the design of Ursa Major, which represents the university's mascot—the bear.
The building is located on a hilltop and Hourihan likened its placement to that of another Maine symbol—a lighthouse for the campus. "The building does that through the way in which it utilizes glass," he said.
Similarly, the interior space is interconnected, allowing views into all the other activities from almost everywhere else in the building.
"There are very few spaces that don't have connections to multiple functions," Hourihan said. "It really activates the space."
He noted that this openness also creates that "buzz" associated with the whir of activity occurring inside. "People just talk about the buzz," he said. "The building has a spirit. It's just alive."