Architect: Kahler Slater
Owner: Ripon College
Contractor: Boldt Construction
Acting as the main visual focal point throughout the Wellness Hub and the connection between the new addition and existing facility, the original 1967 building’s facade with red brick walls and exposed concrete columns remains intact. This brick and concrete wall serve a dual purpose to provide the space with texture and rhythm, as well as acting as an identifiable element to assist in wayfinding for those first visiting the building. A view to the wall can be seen from any vantage point in the Wellness Hub both on the first and second levels, and down the main circulation corridor which accesses the three performance spaces in the facility including the 65,000 SF fieldhouse where many outside events are hosted. Between the columns, large punches in the brick provide visual and physical connections to key existing spaces like the performance gymnasium, group exercise studios, athletic offices, and locker rooms. The wall is also the location for much of the environmental branding and storytelling throughout the facility.
The resulting Willmore Athletic & Wellness Center’s overall design concept revolves around the creation of the “Wellness Hub; a vibrant, energy-filled series of connected spaces at the new entry to the facility. This space provides Ripon College with an innovative collection of experiences, each focusing on total-body wellness. Upon arrival, guests are immediately reminded of the Center’s physical, social and academic wellness amenities as they enter the main space which provides immediate access to the fitness center, lobby/lounge and classrooms. This innovative approach challenged the conventional thinking of providing separation between these activities. In fact, this design approach has been credited by campus leadership in providing Ripon College with a successful differentiator in the competitive small college recruiting landscape.
In addition to the experiences provided on the interior, it was equally important to provide the college with a memorable yet contextual exterior design. This design was driven by the concept to showcase visual moments of the interior to those walking to or past the building. Heavy stone walls are fractured to allow for glimpses of wellness activities inside. The fractures also allow for the interior spaces to connect with the outdoor prairie landscape. These stone walls provide a contextual link to the buildings on upper campus, all of which use local Lannon stone as their primary exterior material. This visual link was a priority of the college, as they wanted more continuity between all their campus buildings.
Photos: Will Skaggs