A Complex Complex

Student Recreation and Wellness Center
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Hastings & Chivetta Architects in St. Louis

Size: 185,000 square feet

Project Cost: $40.1 million

Quick Tour:

23,780-square-foot Wellness Center, including pharmacy, classroom, laboratory, biofeedback space, exam rooms, counseling suite and administrative areas
32,468 square feet of Fitness Space, including cardiovascular room, fitness mezzanine, five multipurpose rooms and racquetball courts
14,143-square-foot Natatorium, including six-lane 25-yard lap pool, spa whirlpool, indoor leisure pool
1,860-square-foot Rebel Wellness Zone
12,984 square feet of public spaces, including two meeting rooms, lobby and control desk, and bistro
44,432-square-foot Gymnasium, including 1/8-mile track, four-court gym and two multi-activity courts
Locker rooms, administrative space, offices and lounges

hile it's not uncommon to hear recreation facilities on campuses referred to as "recreation and wellness" centers, UNLV takes the wellness element a step further and houses a licensed pharmacy, waiting room, health education classrooms, fitness assessment lab, biofeedback space, exam rooms, counseling suite and conference rooms and offices—all under its "wellness" umbrella and within the same facility as the recreation center.

The facility is enormous—185,000 square feet in total—and doors opened in September 2007. Previously, the campus's recreation space was in a building shared with academic space so new, dedicated recreation space was slated. In the early phases of building conception, it was thought that fitness and injury assessments, traditionally wellness functions, should be a part of this new facility's offerings. At the same time, the wellness facility was planning an upgrade anyway, so combining wellness with recreation into one building just made sense, as well as cents.

"Everyone got what they wanted, but the incremental cost wasn't as great," said Raymond DeFilippis, project manager with UNLV Planning and Construction.

The combining of the two did present a unique challenge for architects, according to Steve DeHekker of Hastings & Chivetta. "They have professional medical staff for physical and mental issues on the premises, so that area had to be accessible in the free zone of the building and very visible, but discreet enough to maintain a level of privacy," DeHekker explained.

Additionally, UNLV has a very large commuter population so access from the parking lot was key. Finally, the building also incorporated food service, and in a much more significant way than you see on a lot of campuses, according to DeHekker. That was also tied to the large commuter population, as it would provide a place for those students to study or work.

The result was three distinct entry points to the facility. One is off of the major parking resource, and the other two are directly off campus, one closest to the wellness center and the other by the café. The latter two are both located in the "free zone" or uncontrolled side of the building.

Accommodating the multiple needs of the university wasn't the only challenge. The site was somewhat limited in space, so the building is four levels and is very open to provide visual connections to major activities. The large, open staircase between each floor is a major circulation element but also an architectural element, DeHekker said. From the staircase, students have access to a bevy of activities, such as dedicated Spinning and yoga studios, a three-lane track, a four-court gym, and cardio and weight rooms. The natatorium features a six-lane, 25-yard pool as well as a spa whirlpool, all encased in glass.

As it's Vegas and there is a lot to see, glass played a big part in the facility. The windows were oriented to take advantage of the view of the famed Las Vegas Strip as well as the mountain views while you're on the jogging track. "The windows were configured specifically to frame those in there," DeHekker said.

In addition to fun views, Las Vegas provides the kind of climate that makes it an absolute necessity to employ very high-performance glass and orient as much space toward the north as possible, DeHekker said. Translucent wall panels on west and east walls to diffuse the light and cut out direct solar gain were also utilized.

Creating an open and inviting environment was important to the university, DeFilippis explained. "You can see everything from every place you are in the building," he added. "There's a lot of natural light, a lot of windows, and, jogging around the track, you can have a whole view of Las Vegas and campus and see everything around you. A lot of those things were taken into account. You're not just in a single room. You can interact with the building and surroundings as well as everyone inside."


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

Great building forms and massing; excellent use of color and materials—a fantastic project!

Randy Mendioroz

Harmonious. Consistent color theme. Has 'wow' factor in spatial organization, from the smallest spaces to the largest. Impressive and bold.

Nancy Freedman

On a tight footprint, student recreation spaces soar to multiple bright, light levels that are appreciated as one first enters the center.

Janet Jordan

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Associate Architect:

DMJM Design

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