Re-Envisioned 21st Century Urban Recreation Center

Re-Envisioned 21st Century Urban Recreation Center stimulates community engagement in the Lowertown area of St. Paul. The building's programming is organized to force interactions between active and stationary spaces.

The theme of the EP Exhibit 2016 is It Takes a Community. Selected projects showcase the best work from young designers highlighting community impact and engagement.

The intent of the competition was to re-envision a 21st-century urban recreation center for the Lowertown District and provide the community with a facility to intermix, socialize and enjoy life. The conceptual strategy adapts the typical inward focus of recreation facilities and inverts the program, allowing users to experience the surrounding context while being visible.

The rotating program exposure promotes a diverse experience through the cross pollination of opposing user types within the facility, forcing interactions between fast/slow, public/private, and individuals/groups. This diverse exposure fosters a dialogue with the neighboring community stimulating interaction and promoting use.

The project is grounded in the historic character of the Lowertown warehouse district by its modern reinterpretation of industrial architectural typologies. The building is set back from the street to create a civic plaza similar to Union Depot and allow users to utilize the outdoor space for more than simple circulation. It takes architectural ques from the warehouse typology and transforms each elevation to respond to its context.

The four-story structure responds with a similar scale to the adjacent structures and allows for view corridors to prime landmarks. Similar to the concrete structures of historical industrial warehouses, the building’s construction is redefined by using a concrete post tensioned structure to maximize the floor plate with minimal interruptions. The Precast, unitized façade system transforms the labor intensive masonry skin with prefabrication technologies of today.

The program circulates the massing with various opacities based on the program function. Each floor is organized with opposite program types forcing an interaction between the “Active” Recreation Center and the “Stationary” program of the Arts Workshop/Conference Center. Through the use of transformative programming, spaces begin to blend and merge, interior spaces take advantage of adjacent outdoor spaces allowing programs to expand and increase functionality.

The open floor plan allows various programs to occupy the space at different scales and host a variety of activities. Spaces are meant to adapt. The swimming pool area, for example, can be covered and transformed to host large events. Sectionally, each floor looks onto the next to foster an interaction between dissimilar program types. Green roofs and exterior galleries provide spaces to be utilized for public amenities and promote movement from the interior to the exterior.

The building mimics a classic courtyard building typology with narrow floor plates and a center atrium creating access to daylight and natural ventilation for each space. Perimeter spaces have access to natural cross ventilation and utilize the interior volume to exhaust hot air using the stack effect.

The textured pattern of the ribbed exterior façade design provides solar shading control while the interior glazed atrium reflects light deep into the lower level spaces. The green roofs create opportunities for social interaction through the use of programmatic sculpture gardens and garden terraces. The simplicity of the architectural and structural organization provides flexibility and adaptability for future changes within the facility.

Image credits

Re-Envisioned 21st Century Urban Recreation Center

Nathaniel Steuerwald, AIA

Recreation Center showcase 1

Nathaniel Steuerwald, AIA

Recreation Center showcase 2

Nathaniel Steuerwald, AIA