Guest Column - July 2008
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A Collegiate Complement

Designing College Fitness to Fit Collegiate Culture

By Curt Moody

Customizing the Architectural Image

As each campus is unique, each project is likewise inherently unique. For example, when developing its Recreation & Physical Activity Center (RPAC), The Ohio State University wanted to attract all students—not just "gym rats"—to use the facility. Offering classrooms, lounges and a juice bar, in addition to exercise areas, basketball courts, swimming pools and sundry other fitness components, RPAC was constructed to instill and maintain a strong presence of the university's traditions, but deliberately did not incorporate the scarlet and gray colors used by the athletic teams.

Conversely, Winston-Salem State University is currently designing a new student center that, although similar to RPAC in incorporating fitness areas as well as lounges and meeting areas, will be strongly connected with the school's sports presence. Prominently displaying the Rams mascot and colors of scarlet and white, the facility will be infused with an athletic-tradition image.

Another prime example of using a fitness facility to portray a visual image is the University of Illinois at Springfield. Although connected to the University of Illinois system by name, the Springfield campus wanted to differentiate itself from the main campus' colors and themes. TRAC, Springfield's new student recreation center, houses both athletics and recreation and captures the campus spirit with interior finishes that reflect the university's navy blue and white colors, not the orange and blue colors of the main University of Illinois. Further establishing itself as a different entity, the University of Illinois at Springfield's new facility houses the Prairie Stars' performances in a multipurpose gymnasium that is emblazoned with the Stars' mascot.

Final Thoughts

When designing a fitness and recreation center with the intention of using it to embrace and portray a culture and image, it's essential to remember that every school, every student and every project is different. Student populations continually change and technological capabilities are ever-advancing, demanding that the brand and image of higher education institutions also adapt. Going against the old adage, many people do indeed "judge a book by its cover" when it comes to a campus' appearance. University personnel and planners need to ensure they consider these important factors as they continue to embrace and develop the culture of their collegiate community.


Curt Moody is president and CEO of Moody-Nolan Inc., an architecture, interior design and civil engineering firm specializing in higher education, sports/recreation, healthcare and public service facilities. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Moody-Nolan is the largest African-American-owned and -operated architecture and engineering firm in the nation. For more information, visit