Exploring Campus Recreation Designs with Moody Nolan Design Firm

In a recent interview with Moody Nolan design firm partner Troy Sherrard, BCS delved into the intricacies of campus recreation facility designs, focusing on two prominent projects: the University of Pittsburgh’s Recreation Wellness Center and Michigan State University’s Health & Wellness Center.

Sherrard, the Sports and Recreation Practice Leader at the firm, provided insightful perspectives on the unique considerations and design philosophies behind these innovative structures.

University of Pittsburgh – Courtesy of Moody Nolan

Geographical and Topographical Considerations

According to Sherrard, the decision to build vertically at Pitt and horizontally at MSU was influenced by the distinctive features of each campus. Pitt’s Rec Center strategically positioned itself at the geographical crossroads of the University of Pittsburgh campus, navigating a steep hillside with a vertical design.

“This location is not just a challenge, but an opportunity to craft moments that resonate deeply with students,” Sherrard said. “On the other hand, [the MSU Recreation Center] adopted a phased approach on a flat site, providing a seamless construction experience without disrupting student recreation. The chosen flat site provided an ideal starting point for the masterplan campus development.”

Michigan State University – Courtesy of Moody Nolan

Space Optimization

Addressing the challenge of limited space in an urban environment, Sherrard discussed Pitt’s vertical design.

“The vision is a symphony of vertically stacked spaces that ascend from the vibrant pulse of healthy dining on level one streetscape,” he said. Conversely, the MSU rec center’s ‘L’ shape footprint prioritized efficiency.

“Our philosophy prioritizes investing costs in active programs rather than expansive hallways, emphasizing efficiency and a focus on the vibrant core wellness activities of the facility.”

Integration of Wellness Components

Both projects aimed to integrate diverse wellness components beyond traditional recreation programming.

“The primary design hurdle revolves around the intricate science and art of stacking various recreation and wellness program areas,” Sherrard said.

Sherrard said that vertical orientation demands meticulous consideration of stacking volumes, similar to a game of Tetris. However, for horizontal orientations like MSU, he emphasized the need for careful attention to building circulation patterns.

University of Pittsburgh – Courtesy of Moody Nolan

Engaging With Campus Surroundings

Discussing how these projects engage with their surroundings, Sherrard noted Pitt’s integration of a pedestrian throughway.

“As they journey through the structure, navigating the hillside, they encounter a vibrant showcase of active fitness programs.”

At MSU, strategic positioning at a prominent gateway corner ensures maximum visibility.

“The overarching goal is to establish an inviting, warm, and engaging environment that encourages everyone to explore healthy initiatives.”

Sherrard discussed the notable use of large pans of glass at MSU, emphasizing its contribution to indoor-outdoor functional fitness experiences.

“The design prominently includes indoor/outdoor fitness, multipurpose, and social engagement spaces, enabling a smooth transition between the interior and exterior.”

Michigan State University – Courtesy of Moody Nolan

Moody Nolan’s Distinctive Edge

Highlighting Moody Nolan’s approach, Sherrard emphasized their holistic understanding of the complete student journey.

“Our vision is to create spaces that not only stand out for their uniqueness but also prioritize comfort and inclusivity for all students.”

Moody Nolan’s commitment extends beyond aesthetics to high-performance building design, ensuring functionality, energy efficiency, and a positive environmental impact.

“We not only enhance the student experience but also contribute to a campus environment that fosters overall well-being, growth, and success.”

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