Award Winner - May 2012
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University of South Dakota Wellness Center

Vermillion, South Dakota

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

RDG Planning & Design in Des Moines, Iowa

Size: 56,932 square feet

Project Cost: $12.3 million

Quick Tour:

  • Two-court gymnasium
  • MAC court
  • Racquetball courts
  • Jogging track
  • Aerobics room
  • Spinning
  • Fitness/strength
  • Equipment issue/rental
  • Climbing wall
  • Locker rooms
  • Vending
  • Support spaces

The new state-of-the-art Wellness Center, completed in January 2011, brings a range of recreational and wellness activities to students, faculty and community members at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

Prior to completion of this nearly-57,000-square-foot center, students relied on the university's Dakota Dome, but this space was no longer able to meet the needs of both student-athletes and general students. Students and the university wanted an exclusive space to support health and wellness, and to strengthen the sense of community among students, as well as between students and faculty beyond the classroom walls.

The project site was selected with an aim of making a strong statement toward the north main entrance to campus. The building opens along this entry sequence with a large expanse of glass, becoming a beacon of the student activity that can be found both within the building and at the university. In addition, the site is located near student housing and the Dakota Dome, making it easily accessed.

The facility employs the same native, textural pink-hued quartzite granite that echoes the Richardson Romanesque style found at the heart of campus in its screen walls, stair treads, site components, seat walls and polished concrete aggregate. This granite complements the facility's zinc panels and brick masonry walls.

Derived from a folded plate, capturing views and natural light to the north, the building form and massing make an impressive statement, enclosing the 38-foot climbing wall featured at the main entrance while mitigating much of the easterly sun exposure. This folded plate serves to unify much of the diverse massing of this large facility.

This folded plate zinc roof system allows natural light to penetrate the facility, and provides dynamic views to users within. Users can view all major program spaces, and once inside, they can view the outside of the facility. A contemporary screen wall was incorporated at the main entry, helping to modify the harsh northwesterly winter winds.

Currently on track to receive LEED Silver certification, the facility makes use of many other sustainable elements, including native plants and grasses incorporated into the landscape, which also emulate the original prairie grasses of native South Dakota.

The facility, which provides students and other users with a two-court gymnasium, multi-activity court, racquetball courts, jogging track, aerobics room, spinning space, fitness and strength-training areas, climbing wall, locker rooms, vending and more, has become a strong icon for student quality of life. It also serves as an amenity for the surrounding community, which keeps the Wellness Center active during summer months with special events and recreational camps. A future phase of the plan will integrate a natatorium to the south, while maintaining many of the visual connections of the central lobby hub.

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

"Dynamic exterior boldly says, here I am, come in and explore. Good use of materials and hi-light colors."

Scott Ferrell

"Wow, I can envision this facility in 20, 30, 40 years still looking classic and relevant. Lovely use of materials, yet timeless."

Jeff Nagel

"Simple, well thought out plan contributes to the success of this building, coupled with an abundance of natural light and a skillful restraint on color and detail."

Reed Voorhees

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architect-of-Record: RDG Planning & Design

Landscape Architect: RDG Planning & Design

Lighting Designer: RDG Planning & Design

MEP Engineer: Roby, Quintal & Everson

Structural Engineer: Charles Saul Engineering Inc.

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