Redesign Your School Athletic Pavilion | 2014 National High School Architecture Competition #166

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.

Advanced Technologies Academy, informally known as A-TECH, is one of the many magnet schools in the Clark County School District. A-TECH was established in 1994 with a primary focus on technology and education. Eight areas of study are provided at A-TECH including Architectural Design, Computer Graphics, Engineering, and Law. Student who attend A-TECH come from all over the city and often have to get up extra early just to get to school on time. Most students are enthusiastic about coming to school every day to learn and strive for academic success. However, with all the focus on the technology aspect of the school, the athletic department lacks attention. The athletic center at A-TECH was only built in the fall of 2000, six years after the opening of the school, and is not capable of accommodating the growing amount of students who attend.

Design Problem: The A-TECH gym, first of all, is too small to accommodate the current number of students currently enrolled in the school. Students take P.E. during their freshmen and sophomore years usually and there is no room within the locker room for two classes to change simultaneously and one of the boys P.E. classes needs to use a portable as their locker room. Inside the gym itself, acoustics are not the greatest, especially since the space is used for school assemblies occasionally. The current set up of the exit doors in the gym also does not work well with large groups of students who are all trying to get out at once. The gym also does not have any natural lighting, while people in the weight room on the southeast corner of the building are all too often blinded by the light coming through the wall of glass blocks. The gym is situated in an awkward place in relation to the main school building too. There is no correlation between the gym and the outdoor courts on campus either.

Design Solution: The gym, ideally, needs to be redesigned completely so that it functions well with the student population and the need for athletics at A-TECH. However, if it is more economically sound to simply add on to the current building, then the same concepts would be used. My goals for the design of a new gym would include better, larger facilities for locker rooms and storage. Additional classrooms for Health classes and even for Physical Education and weight training would also be incorporated into the design so that they are easy to access from the main building and from the outside. Natural lighting would be improved by windows or curtain systems. Since the gym is used for assemblies as well, i plan to incorporate an outdoor amphitheater for such purposes. The orientation of the outdoor ball courts would also be rotated ninety degrees and run along the back of the field. A walking path would encompass the perimeter of the field and several shade structures would be placed around the edges of the field as well.


This is a great overview. I am able to get a good sense of the school, its focuses, and strengths and weaknesses. You also had an excellent assessment of the design problem and solution so that I get a clear sense of the obstacles the school faces and how you intent to solve these problems.
It is all very well written. Great job!

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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. 

Try This

  • 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?

Katerina219's work for the Collect Information step:

Besides my personal experience of taking PE for two years and having to deal with the GYM on a near daily basis, I collected photographs of the current building as well as some designs on the main bui
Current site for Advanced Technologies Academy - Google Earth Screen Shot
This is a view of the main school building from in front of the current gym. There is a concrete...
This is a front view of the gym. The black area on the top portion of the gym is where the...
An inside view of the gym. There is a full-size basketball court and two half-courts layed out in...
This is an aerial view of the current A-TECH field. The PE teachers at A-TECH have some complaints...
This is the Assistive Technologies building that resides on the campus in between the A-TECH field...
Another recommendation that was made by the PE teachers that they would like to see included in a...

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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.

Try This

  • 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?

Katerina219's work for the Brainstorm Ideas step:

My plan for a new athletic pavilion for A-TECH is to incorporate both indoor and outdoor spaces.
The Eddie Lynch Pavilion was inspiration for the general look of my gym. the curtain wall is a big...
I was thinking that an indoor running track would be a good addition to the gym at A-TECH. Most of...
Since the PE teachers at A-TECH would like to see exercise stations around the field, i thought it...
Since I really wanted to include an outdoor space into the design as well as a space that could be...
This was my second choice for an amphitheater. I liked the fact that this one had shade structures.
Continuing on with the outdoors incorporation, I wanted to include a place where students could...
Originally, I wanted to include a lap pool in my design. There are several students the are...

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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.

Try This

  • 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!

Katerina219's work for the Develop Solutions step:

When I started developing solutions, I decided to take all of the most important factors that are both needed and wanted by the students and staff, as well as some other ideas that i would like to see
This was my first thoughts for what I wanted the outside of my building to look like, as well as...
This was one of my first designs for an improved site plan. It maximized the size of the field but...
This was my original list of things that either needed to be included in the design, or were...
This site plan gained approval after several attempts to make everything fit perfectly within the...

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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.

Try This

  • 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.

Katerina219's work for the Final Design step:

My final design includes a gym space, larger locker rooms, classrooms, and a larger weight room. It also includes an amphitheater that is capable of seating the students of A-TECH.
This is my decided upon new layout for the site plan. Anything in red are buildings that are...
With all the amenities that I wanted to incorporate into my design, thsi was the best layout of the...
This is a more detailed view of the layout of the gym. It includes an office for the teacher(s) and...
This is a colored view of a front perspective of my design for the proposed gym building. a curtain...
This is a view of the back left corner of the gym. It highlights the additional curtain system in...
This is a view of the covered courtyard with the gym in the background. It is a raised concrete pad...
In order to make my design more of an athletic pavilion, I decided to add and outdoor amphitheater...