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Project Archive

Ithaca College New Athletics and Events Center
July 3, 2013

Name of Project: Ithaca College New Athletics and Events Center
Location: Ithaca, NY
Lead Architect:  Moody Nolan Architects
Information:  www.moodynolan.com
Square Footage: 178,000
Firm’s Role: Design Architect/Architect of Record
Like the athletes it serves, seeking to maximize human performance, this collegiate Athletics and Events Center draws life from “breathing” and the ongoing desire for a higher degree of performance in experience and results. Design mattered to this liberal arts college when it selected this concept as the winner in a design competition, rising to the challenge ‘Why not design a building that efficiently breathes on its own?’ This LEED Gold candidate project built upon this dynamic inspiration, with a core concept that derives shape and form to facilitate air movement through natural ventilation while creating a light-filled icon of campus identity that reinforces a livable campus neighborhood.

This multipurpose facility anchors the eastern edge of a small campus, terminating a major pedestrian circulation axis while working with existing topography. The large mass is set into the ground to reduce the project scale while accentuating the tower and creating a meaningful iconic element for the college.   Tucking into the hillside minimized impact on nearby wetlands, woods and residential neighbors, while allowing entry and a through passage on two different levels. Sustainable site implementations of extensive bio-swales and bio-retention bays were designed to reduced ‘piped’ drainage and improve water quantity and quality for storm water runoff on site as much as possible. The project utilized native species of plantings and trees to avoid irrigation while concentrating plantings near neighbors to minimize visual impact. 

To reinforce the extension of campus into the new facility, the perimeter campus loop road was extended so that students and parking traffic did not cross and overhead high power lines were buried to maximize desirable outdoor student landscape space. An upper plaza provides both an overlook for the outdoor field, but also a staging and events area, intended to extend the hub of activity as the future phases are added. 
Clear building organization is critical to the project’s success, ordering the three active spaces: the indoor field house, natatorium and an outdoor turf field.  Each component serves practice and large assembly-event functions, while sharing support and lobby spaces. Beneath the central tower a vibrant central public space flows from inside to out, linking to campus, and overlooking new and future athletics fields, while establishing a backbone framework for future expansions.

This main hall is also used as a pre-function event spaces, and is the gathering space and main central control point for the building; both the community event entry and the campus entry collect into this space. The interior was developed as an extension of the landscape and outdoor plazas. The warm tones, textures, and life of the indigenous exterior stone of the entry plazas and building façade was extended in the stained concrete of main hall and main circulation floors.  The wood panel detailed wall and wood slatted ceiling in the main hall adds an inviting warm touch to the space as well. 

The mediation of the huge mass versus a more human scale is addressed by the metaphor of an extension of trees in the adjoining woods, both in materiality and transparency and translucent images within the glass, using clues from the surrounding hilly wooded landscape. The exterior orientation of all the spaces focus on maximizing views in and around the building to establish a strong connection with the beautiful rolling wooded hill local landscape. The skin of the building includes three types of metal: metal siding, composite metal panels, and insulated metal panels, providing variation in texture, finish, patterning and economy. The majority of the building enclosure system uses three lighter shades of color in a random order to provide texture along the face of the building – much like the mosaic of a tree shadows or covering. The vertical blue fin elements offer a rhythm to mitigate the mass along the field house and pool to visually reduce the perceived length. The building integrates the natural stone of the surrounding environment through the use of a stone base, datum around the building

At its heart, this building breathes and perceives. 
The field house uses natural ventilation powered by the stack effect of warm air rising to expel warmer hotter air out of the higher louvers in the core tower with minimum mechanical means as cooler air is drawn into the building through lower louvers on the prevailing wind side of the building. The height of the tower allows for differential air pressure to create the airflow and takes advantage of higher wind speeds at the height of the louvers – much like a chimney. Mechanical systems are not needed when the temperatures are within a set temperate range, while in climatic extremes an underground perimeter displacement heating and cooling system focuses on only the lower 15’ of the space for increased energy efficiency. The extensive glazing creates light-filled spaces that reduce the demand for artificial lighting while connecting what are traditionally dark activity spaces to the surrounding campus and providing a window into activity, especially in the evening.