Award Winner - May 2009
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Fitness with a View

Student Recreation Center, Montclair State University
Montclair, N.J.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

RDG Planning & Design
in Des Moines, Iowa

Size: 78,000 square feet

Project Cost: $21.9 million

Quick Tour:

  • Two racquetball courts
  • Jogging/walking track
  • Recreational multipurpose court space
  • Juice bar
  • Locker rooms
  • Administrative offices
  • Indoor pool
  • 10,000-square-foot fitness space
  • Multipurpose activity rooms


bout 15 miles west of the New York metropolitan area, Montclair State University sits upon 246 acres. What began as a small teaching college has become the fastest-growing university in New Jersey, with more than 16,000 students, approximately 80 percent of whom are commuters. This quick growth meant the gymnasium/pool building, which opened in 1958, was showing its age and could not serve the diverse recreational and athletic needs of the students. Additional space was necessary, so the school turned to RDG Planning & Design to create a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient facility that would encourage social interaction, showcase recreational opportunities and provide a powerful first impression for visitors—all within a budget, of course.

The site chosen for the new center was an undeveloped parcel located in the northeast part of the campus. The site had a rocky outcrop and sits atop a prominent ridge line with a dramatic view of the Manhattan skyline to the east, and the hills to the north and west. The slope presented many challenges, as did major electrical power lines and towers immediately adjacent to the east.

The building was conceived as building "blocks" expressed in the prominent campus Spanish Mission Style with a modern curtainwall/glass circulation and fitness space that connects the "blocks." The "old meets new" concept provides a strong and exciting aesthetic statement and helps organize the building and simplify the form to create an economical solution.

Located on the south side of the building, the entrance adjoins established pedestrian and vehicular routes on the west side of the building. From outside, the entry tower provides a prominent and inviting visual statement, while views into the building from the large expanses of glass and punched windows give visual clues to the activities inside.

Once inside, the entrance lobby serves as a general socializing space. From here, patrons get clear views through the building into various activity areas, including the natatorium, weights, fitness, gymnasium, juice bar and other social spaces. The openness is intended to provide a clear glimpse of the activity, as well as inviting you around the corner for more.

The granite control desk serves as an initial visual focus and security point. Adjacent to the desk, a monumental stair and channel glass "light wall" celebrate the energy of the facility with a user-programmable light show that can be changed depending on the desired effect.

While the views inside offer the user an idea of the various kinds of activity taking place within, users can also get a great view of the campus and city beyond the facility's walls. The fitness/cardio area at the top of the monumental stairs offers a commanding view of the Manhattan skyline to the east. The skyline is also visible from the track.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

The views out from the second floor are spectacular. The programmable light wall at the central stair is a nice focal point.

Colleen McKenna

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architectural Consultant:


Aquatic Consultant:

Aquatic Design Group

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