Providing energy-efficient solutions in a desert-like climate, JFAK Architects designed the sports pavilion of the Claremont McKenna College in California, marked by light and transparency.
John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK) designed a large athletics and events center for the Claremont McKenna College in California, incorporating a number of passive design strategies to improve the energy efficiency strongly needed in a desert-like climate. Another key feature is the attention to light and lightness.Lightness is given by the fact that the building appears to hover above the ground plane on a ring of light produced by twelve-foot high sheets of glass on all sides. Light derives from the study on how to optimize daylighting and connecting to the world outside with views clear through and from almost any vantage point. For JFAK, light is as much a substance to build with as any other material. “When you walk in the lobby you can see into the arena, across the arena, and then out to the track and field and the mountains beyond. You can even look through the building, through four layers of glass, and see the pool on the other side”, Friedman explains.
To meet the challenges of a compact site, the architects sank the central basketball arena below grade and placed other functions around the edges, including the gym, the weight room, the fitness center, offices and studios. It is also home to Claremont’s Sports Medicine program. While originally designed for athletics and recreation, upon its opening that members of the Claremont community started using its spaces also for study sessions, meetings, and social gatherings.
On the exterior, the building is skinned in terracotta, with red and yellow accents to indicate school and team colors. Adjacent to the main entrance, a welcoming landscape stair brings people up to the second level and provides terraced seating. Inside the expansive, vaulted lobby, a double-height, figured wall rises above the sculptural interior stair, featuring letters in relief that spell out the name of the school as well as its core values.
The roof incorporates a number of skylights that introduce daylight throughout the facility, while the south facade of the building includes a long row of operable windows on the second floor for the coaches’ offices. Horizontal eaves block the summer heat while allowing in the winter sun. The structure’s north facade, with the least amount of direct light, has the most amount of glazing, taking advantage of spectacular views of both the nearby mountains and the swimming pool. Appropriately, this side is home to the Fitness Center, the most-used space in the building.
With respect to active systems, light sensors shut off lights in empty rooms. Occupancy controls turn off air supply and exhaust when spaces are vacant. Inside the structure, low-flow plumbing fixtures are used throughout and the number of showers is minimized. Outside, drought-tolerant plants and a highly efficient underground irrigation system reduce overall water use. Two bioswales collect water from the structure’s roof and surrounding landscape, which allows it to be naturally filtered back into the local water table. The materials used – terra cotta, terrazzo, a limited quantity of bamboo and cork, plus varnishes and carpets – have low embodied energy and non-VOC content (volatile organic compound).