Award Winner - May/June 2004
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University of New Orleans Recreation and Fitness Center
New Orleans


S u b m i t t e d    b y:

sizeler architects in new orleans

84,363 total gross square feet

Project cost:
$13 million. Initial funding came through a state bond issue, which students are paying off by self-imposed fees.

Quick tour:

  • 15,000-square-foot cardio/weight-training area
  • Two multipurpose rooms for aerobics and dance
  • Three basketball/volleyball courts with a 1/8-mile suspended running track
  • Two racquetball courts
  • Natatorium with a four-lane recreational/lap pool
  • Sauna
  • Lounge and snack bar
  • Administrative offices and locker rooms

Typical of a commuter-style campus, most of the buildings at the University of New Orleans are quite spread out, offering virtually no stopping or gathering places for students and faculty.

"There wasn't a lot of student life activity on campus; there weren't any outdoor meeting points," says Thomas M. Brown, principal in charge for Sizeler Architects in New Orleans. "But the university is now going in a different direction. There is a major emphasis on improving student life and promoting student interaction."

Much of this push came from the students themselves.

"The students wanted something to create more campus life and a healthier lifestyle," says Margaret Vinti-Royerre, director of the Department of Recreation & Intramural Sports at the University of New Orleans. So in a 1995 student referendum, they put their money where their collective mouths were and voted to charge themselves for a new recreation and fitness center, which was completed in 2002.

"It's been a tremendous asset to them; it's become a real focal point for the campus," Brown says. The new facility was strategically sited next to the existing University Center, adjoined by a new outdoor plaza.

"These two focal points on campus could work together—rather than compete if they were on opposite ends of the campus," Brown says. "It's become a real student hub. We wanted it to be a real high-energy place. It also encourages student interaction."

Complete with built-in stone benches and landscaping, the plaza is anchored by a transplanted 96-ton oak tree, which the university spent $25,000 to move to its new home.

"The plaza has become a really big people place," Vinti-Royerre says. It's certainly added an outdoor meeting point to campus.

Inside the new Recreation and Fitness Center, there are plenty of windows to allow users to take advantage of the views of the campus landscape as well as nearby Lake Pontchartrain. Interior materials were chosen for durability, cost-effectiveness and ease of maintenance. The designers aimed for subtlety: Color schemes are meant to be understated and timeless, while the school colors of silver and blue are used thoughtfully throughout.

With its monumental steps, the lobby was designed as another gathering place as well—with some bonus hosting duties rolled in.

"The lobby space is so successful," Brown says. "They've had black-tie events in the lobby."

The exterior of the building was meant to blend in with campus architecture yet be unique unto itself.

"We wanted the building to reflect all the different activities inside," Brown says. "We also wanted to express the overall function of the building, which was fitness, recreation and social interaction."

The facility sees about 600 to 700 users everyday.

"The recreation center has brought more life to the campus experience," Vinti-Royerre says. It has become a specialized social spot, of sorts. "Social in the sense that we don't really let you sit around and socialize. It's not a hangout. It's a place to come workout and meet new people," she says. And a surprisingly vital key to the university's future.

"Ten years ago, you never would have thought a recreation center would be so important to a student's decision," Vinti-Royerre says. Now such a facility seems to be a must-have recruiting tool.

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Great college facility—lots for students to do. Entry canopy is powerful statement. Gym is great space as is pool and outdoor space. Some nice glass and metal panel detailing."

Mark Wentzell

"Simple, yet elegant exterior curb appeal. A handsome architectural identity. The design is very crisp, with a consistent repetition of materials and forms throughout the exterior and on to the interior."

Tom Poulos

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

Aquatic engineer

Water Technology, Inc.

mechanical and electrical engineers

Lucien T. Vivien & Associates

structural engineers

Schrenk & Peterson Consulting Engineers

programming/operational consultant

Canning & Gonsoulin Associates, LLC

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