Text description provided by the architects. The Drexel campus straddles both sides of Market Street in Philadelphia’s University City section. Sasaki's addition to the Daskalasis Athletic Center (DAC), a 1960s-era athletic complex, accomplishes several institutional and programmatic goals. It increases the university’s visual presence along Market Street, integrates existing and new buildings into a unified complex, and groups all of the recreation facilities into a new building wing. Respecting that the DAC is surrounded by one of Drexel’s few outdoor landscape spaces, the design also maximizes preservation of the site’s open space.
The new building wraps around two sides of the DAC building, providing a new urban presence along Market Street. The main façade is treated as a large glazed screen with meandering folds shaded by the extension of the building’s floors. The folded enclosure provides alcoves along the exercise areas, where active users and equipment add a sense of color and movement to the streetscape. The glazed skin is also the result of extensive energy studies. The design is expected to reduce cooling loads by 50% on the south façade and 30% on the east. The building addition incorporates a major pedestrian artery, creating a walkway through the building linking two key areas of the campus. This newly created passageway renders existing and new programs as a focal point for students, visitors, faculty and staff crossing the campus at this location.
The building’s largest component, an indoor gymnasium and jogging track, is placed on the upper portion of the site, opening up directly to the preserved green. The gym space, surrounded by open balconies, allows all activities spaces to be communicated visually. Ample fenestration around the gym provides day-lighting and visibility from inside and out, relating the interior space of the gym with the adjacent soft flooring plaza, used for outdoor group exercise. The plaza conceals a rainwater harvesting system that collects water from 50% of the existing DAC and 70% of the new structure into an underground cistern. Collected rain water is used for toilet flushing to reduce potable water demand.
At street level, the building interacts with the passing urban scene. Paving patterns echo the angular folds of the building, a café is placed among trees preserved and integrated into the design, and a restaurant engages the larger community as well as students. A previously nondescript corner is brought to life through the combination of a landscaped plaza and the center’s climbing wall framed in glass—a further outward expression of a building housing dynamic activities.