Redesign Your School Athletic Pavilion | 2014 National High School Architecture Competition #281

What's the problem here? Getting started on your athletic pavilion design.

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Gerald Ratner Athletics Center at the University of Chicago

Design Challenge Background

The challenge is to redesign your high school’s athletic facilities into an athletic pavillion. With national organizations emphasizing the importance of regular phyical activity to combat obesity, these spaces are more important (and used!) than ever. They are becoming communty spaces and spaces for connecting, cheering, and improving lifestyles.

Design Challenge Brief

You may redesign the interior of the existing athletic facilities, expand on the existing spaces, or design a completely new addition on to your school building. Your design should contain all the spaces and functions required for typical school athletic facilities – locker rooms, athletic equipment storage rooms, concession stands, trophy cases, water fountains, offices for athletics staff, bathrooms, exercise and weight rooms, and, of course, gym spaces. The redesigned pavillion should include ideas for both old and new ideas for athletic facilities. You should also consider sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design.

For your Overview, it is important to post a short, but clear, ‘success statement’ that communicates the goals you hope to solve and achieve through your design solutions. When you’re nearly finished with your design project, you can go back to this success statement to see if your design has met the criteria you first proposed.

At Tenafly High School (THS) we have a long tradition of athletic and academic excellence. THS was considered modern when it was completed in 1972, but since then has only added a small auxiliary gym in the mid 2000’s. Our athletic facilities have become out-of-date and no longer meet the needs of our school community. The athletic department, as it exists today, is both too small and inadequate.

THS also has a long standing tradition of academic excellence. According to a study done by Proceedings at the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, better fitness is directly correlated to higher I.Q. By having limited access to an out of date facility, we only hinder the students' ability to reach their fullest academic and athletic potential.

To properly update the athletic facilities at THS, I plan to gather information from the school community and use it as a guide to design a variety of creative spaces and accessible facilities available to everyone. In my design, I plan to take the needs and desires of the various school communities to create a space that is both supportive and accessible for all athletic activities and will enable athletes and non-athletes to improve their overall fitness and conditioning to the next level.


Don't forget, to register for the National Competition! You can do that here:

Great job with the survey! It was very thorough and you can tell you put a lot of time into it. Also, it would be a good idea to spell out your school's name; not just putting "THS." It is better to be more formal for a competition.

I really appreciate your emphasis on input from users in order to actually define what the design challenges are. As a person looking at your project all at once at the end, I think you could give us a bit more of a clue about what the shortcomings of the existing facility are in this overview. If you wrote this overview before you did the surveys, they that would be more difficult to do, but I am looking at everything as a package at the end, so I could use a bit more of a clue about that here in the overview.

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In the Collect Info step of the design process, gather as much information as possible about your school's existing athletic facilities, both indoor and outdoor. You also want to learn as much as you can about the students and staff who will use it. You can't propose new solutions until you figure out and document what the existing problems are. 

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  • Take note of unsafe conditions or conditions that do not make sense (For example, not enough storage for soccer equipment; no place for fans to buy popcorn at events; no place for athletes to change clothes or store belongings).
  • Interview your school's athletic director, student athletes from various sports, and other staff and ask them what they like and dislike about the current facilities. What changes would they make to spaces if they had a choice?
  • Make a list of the features that you really like about how your athletic facilities look and function.
  • Make a separate list of all the ways your current athletic facilities are not so well designed.
  • Calculate the number of sports played at your school and the number of student athletes who play those sports. Consider how this information will affect your new athletic pavilion. How many teams will need to practice at the same time?
    • Do an analysis at different times of the day, week, or school year and create a chart or diagram with average usage and high / low points.
    • Do an analysis of the different types of equipment used by each sport. How much storage space is there currently? Is it enough? Too much?
  • Visit Flickr or another photo sharing site and search for other types of athletic facilities or gymnasioums to determine good and bad examples of how these can accommodate user’s needs.
  • Post images of buildings, colors, designs, textures, or other things that inspire you in this step. Make sure you give credit to your source!
  • Research other schools, universities, or public centers to determine good / bad examples of how athletic equipment and gear is stored and if anything is done to accommodate student athletes and the fans who use these outdoor facilities. What inspires you?

New_Ideas's work for the Collect Information step:

In this section, my objective was to establish what facilities currently exist at THS, as well as explore the needs of the school.
This link takes you to a higher quality version of the image shown above. The image is a visual...
This link takes you to a YouTube video that illustrates the current athletic facilities at THS....
A vital part of re-designing of any part of a school is to hear opinions of the people who use and...
In order to use the entire space effectively, I had to find out who uses the spaces and when do...
I found inspiration by looking at various projects of K-12 buildings. I looked at buildings from...

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Columbia University Campbell Sports Center © Iwan Baan

In the Brainstorm Ideas step of the design process, you start to be inspired by new places and you put some early ideas down on paper that show what you've found in the Collect Info step. You also might take more photos to show specific new ideas you have. 

The simple diagrams you make here will help you understand how the existing library location and design compare with your new ideas.

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  • Draw a floorplan of your existing facilities. How are all of the different athletic spaces connected? What are the different pathways you can take through all of these spaces? Map all of these rooms and spaces.
  • Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photo of your school. Take measurements of the overall dimensions of your existing athletic facilities, both indoor and outdoor and use the aerial to map out the measurements.
  • Post this aerial map and sketch here so everyone can understand the relationship between your school building, the athletic fields, and the proposed site of your new pavilion. Describe the surrounding area and note existing structures such as the field, track, seating, storage, locker rooms, concession stands, and any fences. 
  • On a piece of tracing paper placed over the aerial photo of your school, sketch a diagram showing a large arc around the building to show the path of the sun throughout the day.  This drawing is called a site analysis diagram.  (Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.)

Think About

  • Will your new athletic pavillion replace your school's existing athletic facilities or become an addition to a different part of the building? Will it be built in an empty lot or space?  Will it be underground or built on the roof?  You decide.
  • Spend some time looking at the aerial photo of your school.  What types of other buildings surround your school?  Homes, businesses, parks, parking lots, or an empty field?  How will these other buildings impact the design of your new athletic pavillion?
  • What types of streets surround your school? Are they busy or quiet?   
  • Based on the site analysis diagram you've sketched, where is the sun located throughout the school day?
  • How can the indoor and outdoor areas of your new athletic pavillion be positioned to take advantage of the sunlight for good lighting?

New_Ideas's work for the Brainstorm Ideas step:

In the Brainstorm Ideas phrase I took the data I collected and looked at the case studies.
Using SketchUp, I created a 3-Dimensional representation of the entire building, this allowed me to...
To aid my understanding of the area and to help those who have never been to the site, I took a...
My next step was to document the current buildings and the measurements of these spaces. I went...

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WMS Boat House at Clark Park © Steve Hall Hedrich Blessing

In the Develop Solutions step, your rough ideas come together with drawings and models that can show others your solutions for a new library.

Important! Since DiscoverDesign is about investigating the design process, the other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teacher, and the mentors - want to see how your ideas have changed over time. This means that while you're working on your digital model, you’ll want to be sure to keep re-saving it with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps.

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  • Draw a sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas.  You can upload photos (JPG files) from your SketchUp model, video fly throughs (FLV files) of your SketchUp model, or drawings (DWF files) from AutoCAD.
  • Determine the best location for your new structure. Make side notes of where new elements may go or how you would change what is currently in place.
  • Make a list of all the unique spaces and features you plan to have in your athletic pavilion. 
  • Your athletic pavilion can include any types of spaces and features you feel are most important for your particular school, but here are a few suggestions:
    • Locker or changing rooms for home and visiting teams
    • Athletic equipment storage rooms
    • Concession stand
    • Trophy cases
    • Water fountains
    • Offices for athletic director or staff
    • Bathrooms for fans
    • Exercise or weight rooms
  • Use cardboard to create a 3D study model of early ideas. Or, create a rough digital study model of your ideas. These models don't need to show detail, just the overall size and massing for your athletic pavilion.
  • Show your ideas to your teacher and peers for some feedback. You can also review your progress with the test group you may have interviewed and test whether your design would meet their needs or address their concerns. Learn from the feedback you receive and incorporate into your final design solution.
  • Be sure to check out and make comments on other student design projects.
  • Do not leave work for the last minute! Going through a detailed design process requires time to gather information, develop ideas, and make improvements. This is difficult or impossible if you try to pull everything together a week before your project is due. Projects that are researched, developed, and well executed will always stand out!

New_Ideas's work for the Develop Solutions step:

Furthering my study and work on the new athletic department I created a bubble diagram to depict the flow and connections between the various athletic spaces within the new facility.
This image of the bubble diagram depict my basic idea of how the new facility should flow and what...
Creating Form: I decided to use the operative word Triumph as my concept. Triumph is defined as a...
On March 1, I held a mid-development critique where students and faculty attended, giving me...

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Williams Natatorium at Cranbrook Academy © All rights reserved by Doctor Casino

The Final Design step of the design process is to create more finished drawings and models that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text, and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project to someone who may or may not have ever visited your school.

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  • Review your design and test it against your original sucess statement that you wrote for the Overview. Does it meet this criteria?
  • Does your final design meet the expectations of the student athletes and athletic director that you interviewed?  If not, you may need to go back to the drawing board and revise your design.
  • For your final design, you will want to post a short but effective paragraph of your process and the unique solutions you found and developed. Tell us about your ideas and how they may or may not have changed over the course of the project.
  • You might want to share floor plans, elevations, renderings of your digital model, photos of a physical model, or a video animation of your model.
  • But you aren't done yet! Be sure to comment on other projects in the competition to foster, encourage, and build an online design community of learners in DiscoverDesign.  CAF will also recognize students that provide both encouragement and constructive criticism on students' work throughout the run of the competition.

New_Ideas's work for the Final Design step:

As the final step in the project, I translated all of my previous work and studies into a final comprehensive design.
The exterior element functions as the first site a viewer has of the building, it’s what...
The main lobby is the next space that the individual will encounter once they enter the building....
Another image of the main lobby, with view of the Olympic sized swimming pool, the multi-purpose...
After leaving the lobby all athletes and students would go down the stairs which are designed off...
The main gym consists of one space that has multiple functions. With seating for more than 1500...
A swimming pool was the number one desired addition to the THS physical education facility. The...
The varsity locker rooms function as the center for THS athletes. This is a space dedicated and...