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The University of Houston—Clear Lake Recreation & Wellness Center

Clear Lake, TX
Construction Cost: 29,600,000
Area / Square Feet: 80,000
Occupancy Date: August 2018

After successfully serving upper-level and graduate courses for 45 years, the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2014 became a full four-year institution, admitting its first freshman class and spurring rapid enrollment growth. The Recreation & Wellness Center was envisioned as a key part of this transition and recruitment effort, providing not only an essential student life amenity, but also acting as a point-of-pride campus landmark that boosts the university’s brand.

The Recreation & Wellness Center marries student life with in-demand wellness-focused academic programming as the new home to the university’s Department of Exercise & Health Sciences. The three new biomechanics, motor control and development, and exercise physiology labs served as the catalyst for the creation of the Exercise and Nutritional Health Institute, a community-based research institute with a mission to improve the health and functional performance of the community.

The facility’s split program is distinctly separated by a voluminous pass-through lobby joining the recreation and academic wings and providing a unique opportunity for joint use. Imagine an exercise science class learning to perform fitness evaluations in the lab, then deftly moving to the recreation center to practice those skills with the equipment there. Conversely, a student rehabilitating an injury could make use of the advanced equipment and faculty resources of the academic side.

One-part student recreation center, one-part exercise science education and research center, the building elegantly merges student life, instructional and research environments.

University of Houston

Judge's Comments

“The combination of the ins and outs of the facades and the program behind it creates a dynamic, changing and playful experience.” — Andrew Kelly

“Playful use of color pops on the exterior and interior bring great energy to the project.” — Nathan Harris

“The design’s strong cantilevered hood forms and extending wings create dramatic spaces that draw users into and through the center.” — Mark Williams