Page D1.1 . 19 July 2006                     
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    QUIZ

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    Y Inside

    by Brian Libby

    In this suburb of the nation's capital, the Fort Washington, Maryland YMCA project is overshadowed by all the surrounding built history. Yet this rehabilitation of a former supermarket should not be underestimated. The firm of GTM Architects has successfully transformed the nondescript building into a "Y" that is at once visually poetic, pragmatically functional, and admirably committed to its community.

    The YMCA and GTM Architects have been frequent collaborators, and the architecture firm currently has four other projects for the client on the boards. "Our design approach is to really delve into the client's organizational culture," says GTM principal Diane Taitt. "It's having them forge their brand identity, but also coming to understand who they are."

    So Taitt crafted the design around the Y's mission: to build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities. And she went a little further to make the new facility help update the client's image.

    The supermarket building, totaling about 35,000 square feet (3250 square meters), has an unimaginative exterior and remains a concrete box surrounded by surface parking. But inside is another story.

    "The president of the Washington YMCA really had a vision for replanting the image of the organization in this area." Taitt explains. The client wanted to give the architects free rein to interpret her vision. "The space was completely gutted," Taitt says, "so we had a blank canvas."

    Lighting up Their Life

    In their redesign, GTM sought transparency. Studies by the Heschong Mahone Group, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center and others have shown that, on measurable biological and psychological levels, humans are more comfortable, more alert, and more productive in naturally illuminated spaces.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Main lobby of the new Fort Washington, Maryland YMCA by GTM Architects. The large window framed in stained wood panels offers a glimpse of activities beyond.
    Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner Photography

    ArchWeek Image

    Large suspended fabric panels define workout areas and lend fluidity to the ceiling plane.
    Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner Photography

     

    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

     
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