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gies, give shape to an architectural experience that defines the YMCA’s mission of “efforts to support youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.” Welcoming the community, hosting city-sponsored events, facilitating encounters, and giving a generous space back to the city, a public threshold — referred to by the architects as the “front porch” — was placed at the entrance. Beyond, a two-story glass wall reveals interior elements that continue the entry sequence: lobby, reception desk, healthy café, and “Child Watch” (a big plus for family use and appeal) — all visible from the street beyond the landscaped outdoor seating area. The previous 1941 building,

by all accounts a dark maze, was decidedly “old school,” both socially and architecturally. Big, important (and high-fun) spaces, like swimming and basketball, were hidden in the basement with zero natural light. Was exercising a more private matter at that time? Perhaps. Keeping fit today is surely a communal, and even virtuous, activity. Whose long hours of disciplined training need go unnoticed? And what better advertisement for the Y’s services than a civic viewport? Supporting the central design theme of the building, “visible activity,” a 40’ fritted-glass curtain wall spans the upper three floors of the north façade. Showcasing a full-height YMCA super graphic, it serves as a window to the community, blurring the line between inside and out.

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A public threshold — referred to by the architects as the ”front porch” — was placed at the entrance. Moving inside, interior spaces open up vertically and diagonally. Events arranged around a central grand staircase encourage cross-training. Bottom to top, activities are stacked from more-public to more-private and from ground-floor ‘free’ to upper-level ‘members-only.’ West-to-east, light-loving and noisier zones such as basketball and racquetball sit west of the stair, while more individual-oriented, body-personal areas like the pool, aerobic/cardio classes, weight and machine-based equipment, sit east of it. A hanging running track at a partial fifth level ties the two types together above the main workout space. Exterior material choices echo the organization and layering within. Upper-level activity spaces, completely glassed on the north, have opaque metal walls on the east and west to eliminate the harshest heat gains. Balancing against possible glare from the north-side glass, a white TPO roof over the central circulation zone on the south edge acts as a giant light shelf and indirectly lights the back of the gymnasium spaces. On the east end of the ground floor, the pool — dropped 24” below grade for a more-reserved street view for swimmers — is wrapped in bands of stacked limestone. A huge bay window, doubling as an interior seating ledge, projects over the sidewalk and bounces light onto the water via

Texas Architect July/Aug 2012: Healthcare & Wellness  

In this edition about design for healthcare and wellness, we look at good buildings of both types. But the role of architects in public heal...

Texas Architect July/Aug 2012: Healthcare & Wellness  

In this edition about design for healthcare and wellness, we look at good buildings of both types. But the role of architects in public heal...