Feature Article - May 2015
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Finding Synergy

Collaborating & Combining Functions in Multipurpose Designs

By Rick Dandes


During the design phase, the team remained unsure of the extent of use beyond the core curriculum of the school; they were challenged to design flexible space that still reflected the identity of the school, "… and we believe the project has been enormously successful in this regard," she said. Besides providing athletics and wellness facilities to its 700-plus students, Sacred Heart welcomes nine other independent day schools in its sports league into the building, shares the space with the Christo Rey School (an independent boys and girls high school) and their next-door neighbor the ABC School (for at-risk infants and preschoolers), and also provides a home for adult recreation leagues in an area of the city that is starved for these kind of facilities. Since opening in the fall of 2014, the building already has more than 1,700 users who are not students at the school.

Several design choices made this possible, such as making the locker rooms multi-gender-friendly and selecting a color palette that used the school's iconic red and white in combination with a sophisticated robin's egg blue and vibrant accent colors, which are youthful without being childish. An environmental graphics program also makes the spaces feel sophisticated for adults and lively for students.

"Notably," Nelson added, "this project was a partial adaptive reuse of a former parking garage. Select structural aspects of the garage were reused so that we could maintain the existing bulk envelope. The garage's site was one of the few within walking distance of the school that could also support a regulation gym and pool—all essential aspects of the new center. This challenge resulted in a complicated and strategic demolition and rebuilding process, where maximizing every inch of space was critical in order to maintain standards for the competition-specific facilities within."

BKSK intentionally designed teaching moments into the building, and expanded on this commitment by giving a number of talks to the students about how their building works. In a series of assemblies, the team explained how the sun heats water year-round through a solar hot water system with an array of evacuated tube collectors, and how it lights the building through Solatube skylights. As a result of all this, the students see the building not just as a place to stay active and compete, but also as a place that demonstrates the school's five core values, which are stated on the front facade: Faith, Intellect, Service, Community and Wise Freedom.