The student recreation center at San Diego State University has been completely renovated and expanded to 138,000 square feet, with 85,000 square feet of new construction in an $82.6 million project.
The old center was gutted to make way for the expansion that included a new outdoor plaza adjacent to the Viejas Arena that formed a new student hub on the west side of campus.
Designed by the SmithGroup architectural and engineering firm with strong student participation, the new center has a wide-open design with high performance glass walls in the new section that flood it with sunlight during the day and serve almost as a beacon after dark with the interior lighting.
The glass walls curve around the side of the new portion of the building and take up its entire front, from ground to roof. The two-story lobby is a wide open space leading into the rest of the center.
“There’s a lot of glass. We want to show off the activities that are open to the students and we want students inside of the building to connect with the environment as well,” said Clint Menefee, SmithGroup vice president and higher education studio leader.
“We did a lot of solar studies to make sure we had access to natural light and all the good stuff that goes with it,” Menefee said.
At the same time, the center has roof overhangs facing southwest to provide some shading when the sunlight is most intense.
Fitness programs are organized along a central spine that the SmithGroup called The Canyon that infuses the recreation center with daylight and views to the plaza.
The two-story canyon runs from the new entrance at the front of the center through the new portion of the building to connect the new with the renovated older center, ending at a 40-foot indoor rock climbing wall and a 10-foot tall bouldering wall.
From the inside, “you couldn’t tell the difference from the renovated piece and the new piece,” Menefee said.
Most of the activities are grouped on either side of the indoor canyon on the first and second floors, with the second floor overlooking the lower portion of the canyon.
There are group fitness studios, yoga rooms, spin cycle spaces, nutritional planning rooms, lounging areas, a restaurant, and an Olympic weight training room toward the rear of the center.
Free weight training “is one of the hottest trends right now,” Menefee said, but “you don’t want this at the front door.”
“It can be very intimidating,” Menefee said. “You want this to be sort of an open and inviting facility for everyone. That includes people who are highly trained and have been doing this for a long time to people who are just finding their way.”
One of the more noticeable features is an indoor eighth-of-a-mile track that hugs the interior curving glass wall. “You have these amazing northeastern views,” Menefee said. “It’s really a beautiful part of the city.”
President: Mike Medici
California offices: San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco
Business: Architecture & Engineering
Notable: SmithGroup is the oldest continuously operating architecture and engineering firm in the country.