Spillman Farmer Architects’ proposal for the Dickinson College Kline Sports Facility takes advantage of the existing features, while striving to introduce more transparency and connectivity as well as making the building’s sustainability evident. The new three-level addition transforms the Kline Center into a dynamic campus gateway, a marquee building with bold daytime and nighttime presence. The addition is placed along the eastern side of the existing building, reaching east to Cherry Street and south to High Street and integrated with the existing topography. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The existing Dickinson College Kline Center is a bold but uninspiring utilitarian structure, built economically and well used over the years. A later addition to the building is similarly utilitarian and equally uninspiring. Like many gymnasiums and sports facilities of its vintage, Kline’s exterior is more imposing than inviting, and its interior has limited natural daylight and poor acoustics. The facility also lacks gathering and social space, a missed opportunity for drawing students in and creating a dynamic campus hot spot. Along with these challenges come a number of compelling features of the building, including the space-defining central corridor and the way that this corridor, and the structure itself, align with Biddle Field. The building’s approach to stormwater management (similar to that employed in Louis Kahn’s fundamental Trenton Bath House) is also intriguing and calls for further consideration.
In the new addition, the north “wing” features regulation-sized squash courts at the lower level with viewing areas at the main level. The south “wing” features strength training and multipurpose studios at the lower level; juice bar and “see and be seen” gathering spaces and main entrance on the main level; and cardio areas on the upper/mezzanine level.
The south façade of the building, along High Street, features a new landscape intervention of a living green wall, a visually delicate structure anchored by masonry monoliths that together draw one’s gaze along Kline Center and then out towards Biddle Field. This green wall actually functions as a climate filter: its summer foliage creating shading and cooling the south façade as well as the interstitial space created by the intervention. (The interstitial space even provides the opportunity to bring the cool air into the building through operable windows.) In the fall, the green wall will provide appealing change of color and in the winter, as the leaves fall away, the winter sun will warm and further illuminate the building.
Transparency and Connectivity
The addition is carefully integrated with the existing main entrance and the existing central corridor to achieve a direct and clear entry sequence. The existing corridor is extended through the new addition at the main level to create a central spine activated by program elements with access to the pool and basketball courts. Glass curtain walls and skylights bring natural daylight into the building and introduce dramatic transparency throughout, strengthening connectivity: the physical and visual connections inside and out, and among the different spaces within the facility. This transparency provides passersby with dynamic views into the building and gives occupants views out, making the facility more inviting and the user’s experience more enjoyable. For the staff of the facility, this interior connectivity allows each activity area to be monitored from a central reception or control desk, increasing safety and security.
You will note that this concept proposes removing the earlier health and fitness center addition that currently does not contribute to the quality of the campus and creating green space on the North along Cherry Street. This move also has the advantage of extending the campus quadrangle outlined in the College’s Master Plan and better connecting both the Kline Center and its new addition to the campus.
Sustainable features have been purposefully emphasized here. Most visible perhaps is the statement-making green roof envisioned for the facility. Another element is the addition’s internal natural ventilation system, inspired by Zimbabwean termite mounds, that is integrated with the facility’s climbing wall.
Termites in Zimbabwe maintain the internal temperature of their mounts at exactly 87 degrees Fahrenheit, which they achieve by adjusting convection currents in the mounds throughout the day. Air is sucked in at the lower part of the mound and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound through passive ventilation.
In a bit of biomimicry, the new addition features its own “termite mound” structure – the fitness center’s climbing wall, which extends from the lower level to the ceiling and beyond, penetrating the roof. Outside air that is drawn in is either warmed or cooled. It is then vented into the building’s floors and offices before exiting via the termite mound/climbing wall. Thus a dramatic sustainable feature is not only made visible but also useful. And imagine the campus views climbers are rewarded with when they reach the upper holds of the climbing wall!
This design concept also incorporates innovative stormwater management. Currently, stormwater from the Kline Center is handled in a very intriguing way, where rainwater is allowed to run down the existing structure and is collected at various underground basins that then drain into a primary retention area. This approach is similar to that employed in Louis Kahn’s famous Trenton Bath House. While at the Kline Center this approach is currently functioning reasonably well, at the Trenton Bath House (where it has been in place longer), this approach to stormwater runoff has actually been proven to degrade the building over time. It may be in the College’s best interest to assess the long-term implications of this stormwater management design at this point, while you are considering a significant addition and intervention in the building. With this in mind, Spillman Farmer Architects’ design explores relocating the existing stormwater retention system in a way that it becomes part of the building’s landscape, strategically placing retention ponds on the building’s south side so that they can be viewed from the central corridor. We envision that the walls of the pool will also be opened up through the addition of glazing to provide views in and out. In this way, the corridor becomes a true esplanade, affording building occupants a walk along the “waterfront,” both pool and ponds.