Page D2.3. 10 May 2006                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    QUIZ

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    Recreational Morphing

    continued

    The largest portion of the building is shaped, when viewed from above, like a grand piano. This is where athletic facilities are housed, and the size and scope would do honor to an Olympic medalist.

    There are (drumroll please): eight racquetball courts; a six-court basketball arena bigger than a football field; a 50-meter pool; a 40-foot (12-meter) climbing wall; a 17,000-square-foot (1600-square-meter) fitness and weight area; and a four-lane jogging track suspended from the ceiling to float above the gargantuan arena.

    The building interior is unified by huge, soaring steel trusses overhead. Structurally and sculpturally, each truss is different, creating an ongoing feeling of movement that adds drama and differentiation to the oversized CRC program.

    Mixing Other Uses

    Extending above the center on concrete-encased stilts like an entire additional building is a wing with 112 housing units. Here too one sees the Morphosis iconography in the form's boxy shape and abstract window pattern. For some upper-class students living there, this pattern makes their view to the outside oddly placed — in some cases just slightly above the floor.

    But from the outside, the building has a compelling sculptural presence. This housing portion feels like the long Jupiter-mission spacecraft from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," at once futuristic and primitive in its controlled chaos.

    The CRC also meets the challenge of a difficult site. The University of Cincinnati is a hilly area, and the center's site slopes dramatically downward. It's possible to enter and exit the building at elevations varying as much as 20 feet (6 meters).

    All told, there is so much program to this student center that it almost seems like self-contained college. "There's no other recreation facility like it on any other college campus," claims Morphosis project architect Kristina Look. "Theoretically, a student could spend his (or her) entire academic career at UC in just this one building. It's become a building with enormous capacity and freedom with its large transparent spaces."

    Indeed, for all the steel, aluminum, and other materials that went into the CRC, it is glass that seems to define it. In or out of the University of Cincinnati, or even college campuses in general, there is a greater trend in architecture that sees public buildings as community gathering places, where people congregate to hang out and relax even when there aren't formal activities happening.

    That vibrant sense of around-the-clock life is precisely what makes the architecture come alive. Mayne's latest creation takes advantage of that, acting as a transparent hub where the star attraction is the building's population. And for the University of Cincinnati, that truly represents a metamorphosis.

    Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Architectural Record.

     

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    ArchWeek Image

    Cafe area of the Campus Recreation Center, designed by Thom Mayne, at the University of Cincinnati.
    Photo: Lisa Ventre/UC

    ArchWeek Image

    Cafe.
    Photo: Lisa Ventre/UC

    ArchWeek Image

    View down to the cafe from the mezzanine.
    Photo: Lisa Ventre/UC

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC lobby, under construction.
    Photo: Lisa Ventre/UC

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, level 0.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, mezzanine level.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, level 1.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, level 2.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, level 3.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    CRC, level 4.
    Image: Courtesy University of Cincinnati Extra Large Image

     

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