The University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) originally opened in 1971 as IMPE, Intramural Physical Education. For the time period, this was the largest and most impressive structure of its kind, containing multiple basketball and racquetball courts.. Along with its recreational amenities, “The architecture was institutional, a building filled with a labyrinth of dark corridors” (Athletic 1).
In the early 2000’s, the University undertook a plan to redesign and re-develop this already monstrous facility. Construction for this immense project began on March 6, 2006 and was completed in August two years later. The architects at the head of this development were Hughes Group Architects out of Sterling, VA. The project size was 340,000 gross square feet and cost roughly $54 Million. The new ARC boasts 4 gymnasiums, 2 pools, 34,000 square feet of strength and conditioning areas, an indoor track, 12 racquetball courts, multiple multipurpose rooms and much more. The end product of this complete reshaping “…integrates into the campus fabric with an exterior colonnade and landscaped plaza that spans the entire length of the facility, while enhancing accessibility with integrated ramps, bus shelters, and bike storage” (Athletic 1). The redesign of the ARC is truly an architectural and structural phenomenon.
BUILDING DESIGN INTENTIONS
After it was decided to update the recreation center-then known as the Intramural Physical Education Building- the architectural firm VOA Associates began designing the renovation and reconstruction. The new building was designed around a large winter-garden entryway. From this main entrance area one can view almost all of the provided facilities of the new building. Being renamed the Activities and Recreation Center, the new updated building now hosts lots of brand new equipment, updated and larger gymnasiums, a more open and naturally-lit plan, and improved facilities. It now also provides locker rooms, food services, and storage and maintenance spaces. Over all the improvement was welcome compared to the older building’s dark corridors and outdated equipment.
BUILDING TYPE + PROGRAM
The Activities and Recreation Center is a large multilevel building boasting new and large facilities with many purposes and functions. It holds two fifty-meter pools, one indoor and one outdoor; four large, multipurpose gymnasiums; large locker rooms, for men, women, and families; a three-lane, one-fifth mile track, for running, jogging, and walking; hundreds of weights, lifting machines and cardio machines; seven multipurpose rooms; and much more! Most of these facilities are easily visible from the backbone of the building, which is the large atrium-like winter garden entry way, which stretches all the way from the front to the back of the building.
VOA Associates has a 40-year history. In 1969, Vickrey, Klein & Kikuchi, Inc. was established in Chicago, IL and Orlando, FL. In 1976, Vickrey, Ovresat & Awsumb (VOA) was created. Services expanded to include interior design. In 1977, VOA moved to the historic Chicago Tribune Tower, followed by a move in 1990 to the historic Santa Fe Building in Chicago. In 1999, VOA was recognized as Firm of the Year by The American Institute of Architects and in 2009, the firm celebrated its 40th anniversary and 15th year in Washington, DC. Their goal is to design a building that goes perfectly with the culture surrounding it. The leader of this project, Richard H. Fawell, AIA, NCARB, IIDA, did a good job of integrating college culture in the design of the ARC for the students.
• Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Springfield, IL ( AIA Chicago Chapter, Divine Detail Honor Award)
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