First Place - Christopher Kumaradjaja - Redesign Your School Athletic Pavilion | 2014 National High School Architecture Competition #280
The task is to redesign the athletic facilities for The Masters School, a boarding/day school that serves the 5-12th grades. On their website, the school views its mission as providing “a challenging academic environment that encourages critical, creative, and independent habits of thought and a lifelong passion for learning.” To achieve that mission, the school “promotes and celebrates academic achievement, artistic development, ethical action, athletic endeavor, and personal growth.” The mission is implemented through the school’s Harkness table teaching methodology that encourages diverse opinions, interests, and shared experiences. As a result, the student body has developed relaxed but excitedly focused atmosphere throughout the 96-acre campus.
Masters sets athletics as an integral part in a student's high school experience. The school's boasts a number of sports teams that compete at the interscholastic level. Ample opportunities are available for every student to participate in the school's events as player and spectator. The athletic offerings range from interscholastic tournaments to open gym. While the school boasts many outdoor playing fields including an outdoor competition standard track, the current athletic center can no longer satisfy the school’s need for their planned athletics, arts, and extra-curricular expansion. A redesign of the athletic facilities would require displacement of the building housing other programs such as dance, music and leisure. However, arts related activity will be included in the new building as the school considers them as inextricably linked together.
The programs of combining arts and the athletics in the new center include dedicated gymnasia, pool, and studios that are specifically accommodated to every one of the sports and co-curricular activities that Masters has to offer. Therefore, the goal of the new design is clear: to meet up with these expectations. A striking programmatic feature of the center is that it includes a variety of leisure amenities, such as a café and various hang out spaces.
As part of the information gathering process, I surveyed to existing athletics and arts facilities, the locations of the buildings around the athletic center, and the terrain of the campus. The campus is arranged in a tiered pattern, with the "quad" in the center. The buildings that directly surround the quad include the science building (Morris), the main upper school (Masters), the existing athletics building (Strayer), and the dining hall (Cameron Mann). In the periphery lie the art studios, the dormitories, the middle school, and Reunion Field, which is directly south of Strayer Hall. The location of the Reunion field could prove to be a great "node" for athletic events in the school.
The general impression of the existing facilities is that the building serves as a terminal for student athletes to disperse to sports fields across campus. Each afternoon, students come directly from class through a single entrance into the building to the locker room. They then proceed to the fields around campus through the same clogged doorway. During the winter, however, the intensity of the usage remains inside the athletics building. With most of activities moving indoors, Strayer Hall becomes very crowded.
Coincidentally, the school has just broken ground on the new Masters Athletic and Arts Center (MAAC) which represents the school’s vision of developing well-rounded students who have appreciation for academics, arts, and athletics. I will derive the requirements for this athletic center based on the facilities and the functional goals of the MAAC.
If I were to hypothetically redesign this very large building, how would I incorporate the arts and athletic programs in order to achieve the balance and strength that my school so aims to strive for?
For a design to encourage free circulation around the entirety of the building, a building must not have dead ends. In another words, have the main artery hallways meet together in a circuit. Therefore, an ideal circulation scheme would consist of various "nodes", where students are encouraged to invade the public space given to them, as a way to reduce congestion due to "clots" of students who have no place to hang out. Additionally, in order to encourage interaction between the "jock" and "nerd", and the "artsy" and "technical" social groups, the varying programs associated with each of the two social groups should alternate as they branch off the main hallway.
This stage involves the attempt to clump the programs into a strategic layout of a single building. On the broad scale, the general challenge to this process is to find the strategic placement of each room; they must not invade another program’s space. At the same time, to be consistent with the school’s philosophy of multi-disciplinary or shared experience, they must not be too isolated such that participants of each program become invisible from the other. Therefore, we must seek to create a balanced design.
The general hierarchy of programs is as follows: community spaces are surrounded by "rooms of motion". Arts and athletics areas are properly balanced in a yin-yang shape. Common use areas like café and locker rooms are placed in the centers of each floor, equalizing travel time between places and allowing different participants to mingle and see each other. In this layout, the rooms are in a firm balance.
By placing the programs strategically, the building will have the versatility to operate on the two modes suggested in "brainstorm ideas": community mode and spectacle mode. As a result, the building's intensity would vary from time to time depending on the time of day, and the scheduling of events – whether they are athletic events, like games, or arts events, like dance performance. During times of athletic practice and training, an evenly distributed half of the building would exhibit an atmosphere of activity. On the other hand, during times of open gym, dance studio and free periods, the other half of the building would exhibit a similar level of intensity. This versatility would prove to make a living, breathing building.
The building's vascular system is designed to augment the functions of each part, providing proper "highways" directly from one place to another. In the smaller scale, the highways serve direct access to all athletic and performing arts rooms from the locker rooms. At certain corners of the building, the path widens to form informal gathering spaces for students and faculties. On the much larger scale, the highways provide the most geographically convenient routes toward the main school building, and toward the residential facilities, such as the dormitories and the dining hall.
Based on different aspects proposed in the “Brainstorm Ideas” section and explored in the “Develop Solutions” section, a final design has emerged. The “cross inside a circle” pathways are implemented in all three floors of the building. All the rooms except for the pool, which is placed just slightly outside the circle along the east-west line, are contained with the “community bubble”. The result is a tight containment of all programs while maintaining a level of logical separation. Windows along the exterior wall and around certain rooms serve to create not only a sense of light and openness but to symbolize the openness of the school where everyone is welcome to look inside and participate.
On the finer scale, attention has been paid into the layouts of each room. For example, the locker rooms on the lower level are in a trapezoidal shape, to provide extra legroom and space for lockers. The problem of changing clothes in a cramped space may be alleviated. The locker rooms have direct access to the fencing studio, whose layout is directly influenced by the layout of the locker rooms. The resulting layout of the fencing studio is an organic, softly angled exhibition hall. Lastly, the music programs, which consist of the experimental theatre, individual practice rooms, and rehearsal rooms, are placed on the top of the building, providing direct access to the vegetable garden.
An entirely Masters School specific symbolism is added to the building: the carpeting of the lower and upper floors are blue and red, respectively, to reflect Delta-Phi identities. At The Masters School, the student body is sorted into two groups: Delta and Phi. The blend of blue and red makes the color purple which is the school's main color. Additionally, Delta and Phi also represent the initials of the town of Dobbs Ferry, the town in which the school is located.
Looking back, one of the greatest design challenges was on accommodating the site into the existing geometry of the buildings, the quad, and the terrain. I had to make sure that the building’s edges must not intersect with the existing areas and the building’s eastern side must establish continuity within the quad. With simple rotations and adjustments, the building fit snugly within its site. Moreover, the building's eastern side is now parallel to the quad. With the addition of the roof garden along the eastern side, the quad now has a companion green area nearby where students can hang out in one area can easily see the other students in the other area.
Finally, as measures of sustainability, the sun's resources are harnessed in a variety of ways. First, the gymnasia and main hallways are topped with glass, so that sunlight can provide full daytime light as if they were outdoors. Secondly, the sunlight allows for an outdoors common area with greenery and a vegetable garden. The turf will insulate part of the building from extreme heat or cold. The garden can be maintained by the gardening club, which will further enhance the community experience. The building's ample roofing area and constant exposure to sunlight can also provide space for solar panels.