Award Winner - May 2009
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Facility Facelift

Wright State University Recreation/Student Union
Dayton, Ohio

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

The Collaborative Inc.
in Toledo, Ohio

Size: 140,000 square feet

Project Cost: $8.4 million

Quick Tour:

  • Recreation control desk
  • Climbing wall
  • Locker rooms
  • Student services
  • Fitness center
  • Racquetball courts
  • New natatorium entrance
  • Recreation commons
  • Table games
  • Student lounges


s a series of buildings cobbled together during a 40-year period, the student union and recreation center at Wright State University practically cried out for a makeover. The facility was constrained by a lack of connectivity, confusing circulation patterns and interior spaces that lacked vitality.

Enter The Collaborative Inc. The Toledo-based architectural firm renovated the building and made it a literal sight to behold, with a design that energizes spaces, showcases recreation programs and clarifies circulation patterns.

"It was a great challenge," said architect Frank G. Beans, partner at The Collaborative Inc. "It was a wonderful transformation of an old '60s-style building that has had new life breathed into it and into the campus as well."

To accomplish this, extensive amounts of load-bearing walls were removed to create vistas between functions. A mosaic of multiple-patterned glass appears throughout the design to reinforce visual connections between spaces. While always allowing a unified view back to the central atrium, the new layout offers a distinct contrast to the former building, where recreation functions were hidden away.

The atrium draws upon the energy of the surrounding spaces, which include the recreation commons, fitness area, climbing wall, television and card game area and student organization offices. The new control desk gives staff members a public presence in the atrium, making the facility more inviting and allowing staff to secure the renovated locker rooms and new aerobic studios. The desk has visual access to a number of recreation functions, including the fitness center, new table game room, TV lounge, racquetball courts and climbing wall. The design team relocated the natatorium entrance to the entry floor level and created a distinctive entry statement.

The new climbing wall is a focal point for the atrium and lounge areas. Due to height limitations, the design team located it in the old racquetball court, removed the surrounding walls and installed glazing to put the activity on display.

To reconcile the low ceiling heights and lack of natural light, the design team opted for an exposed overhead structure in the new fitness and free weights area. A radial, spoke-like layout of light fixtures, multiple circular bulkheads, floor materials, layout of exercise equipment and the curved glass walls give the space a sense of movement and openness.

The myriad visual connections energize the facility. A glass back wall on the reoriented racquetball courts, for example, make them visible to the new TV lounge and card game area, as well as the control desk. The design removed walls to expose the new table game area and link it to the other functions.

The center was so highly anticipated by the student body, the moment the staff placed furniture in the facility, someone sat in it. Membership during the first year of operation jumped by nearly 35 percent.

"We did this to ultimately increase and improve the quality of life for the students," said Eric Corbitt, director of the recreation center and student union. "We were at our second highest enrollment in the fall. I don't know if it's because of the Student Union Recreation Center, but I sure like to think so."


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

Quite a transformation, and some unique architectural detailing.

Bob McDonald

Interesting entry into the natatorium.
Clever use of glass panels at the fitness area.

Colleen McKenna

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer:

Heapy Engineering

Structural Engineer:

LKL Engineers

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