Recreation Center - University of Massachusetts Amherst

Amherst, Mass.
Construction Cost: $38 million
Area / Square Feet: 120,000
Occupancy Date: September 2009

Despite its bucolic location, UMass Amherst has relatively little high-quality outdoor space offering opportunities for relaxation, informal recreation and socializing. The planning of the building therefore centers on a public concourse that extends through the building and reaches out to the east in the form of a new landscaped quadrangle, the creation of which reflects the university’s commitment to create a pedestrian-friendly campus.

Familiar red brick on the building’s exterior contrasts with the machined crispness of aluminum shading devices and wide expanses of glass. The brick, which relates to the adjacent Mullins Center and many older buildings on campus, is detailed with deep reveals at openings to emphasize its solidity. Each elevation relates to its particular conditions.

The interior is characterized by an abundance of natural light, and by the openness of the spaces that provides visual connections throughout the building. At its heart is the concourse. More than just a pedestrian route, this is a social space, with a café and seating areas, and an amphitheater at the main stair designed for both informal and programmed events. Overhead balconies at the cardio area and a glass wall at the gymnasium provide views into activity areas from the concourse.

Judge's Comments

A very thoughtful plan organization, executed skillfully with an understanding that buildings have a responsibility of addressing the social aspects of campus life.
— James Braam, 360 Architecture

A well-studied solution. The building has a very logical plan and arrangement of spaces, combined with clean, consistent interior design, while the exterior is contextual with the rest of the campus.
— Robert McDonald, Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative

The magic here is that the brick building feels so solid and so massive, but when you're inside, it feels so light and elegant.
— Stefanie Greenfield, Cambridge Seven Associates