Growth and expansion have defined the ongoing evolution at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) during recent years. The transition from a commuter school for continuing education into a four-year campus with resident students created the need for a recreation and wellness facility that serves as a campus landmark.
The Clear Lake Recreation and Wellness Center is a new 81,000 square foot facility, featuring McElroy Metal’s 22-gauge coil formed into wall panels. MCT Sheet Metal of Katy, Texas, manufactured three custom profiles in the Sherwin-Williams Fluropon PVDF custom color Aged Bronze. A recruiting tool for the university, the facility partners student life with wellness-focused academics as the new home to the university’s Exercise and Health Science Department. It houses recreational amenities including fitness/exercise facilities, an indoor track, and multi-use athletic courts for club sports, intramurals and personal training.
“Campus recreation and wellness centers are powerful tools for recruitment and retention of higher education students,” says Mark Kranz, FAIA, Vice President & Design Director at SmithGroup of Dallas. “To that end, the university wanted a bold, modern new facility to elevate their brand externally, and unite the campus internally with a strong, cohesive identity.
“Through the use of provocative form reflecting the program within, overarching sustainable strategies, materially and with color, the design epitomizes the UHCL ‘Hawk’ brand.”
Kranz points to the south façade of the building, which “is energized with a dynamic composition of custom profile single-skin metal panels, inspired by the motion of a hawk in flight,” he says. “That wing of the building houses research and academic space for the Health and Human Performance (Kinesiology) programs. We knew that we wanted our design to express the many layers and aspects of this active, human-centered field of study. The two-story volume blends in plan in a muscular way. We thought of both the body in motion and the flight of a hawk and overlaid the two as an abstract way to think about how a façade could appear to be kinetic.
“This dynamic set of ideas led to the exploration and experimentation with broken metal profiles. The result is very poetic and elegant and uses a simple and economical material.”
MCT Sheet Metal handled the fabrication and installation of metal products on the new center. MCT owner Patrick Coussens says working closely with SmithGroup helped everyone achieve project goals.
“The procured metal has a fantastic warranty with a large selection of color options to meet the design needs of the architect,” he says. “The 22-gauge sheet metal used is a step above the 24-gauge typical standard, which translates to a more robust panel in terms of strength and wind load. That adds longevity to the project. The profiles SmithGroup designed are fantastic for breaking up the façades into something visually enjoyable.”
Kranz says a major challenge with such extensive use of glazing is the control of solar heat gain and visual glare as it relates to energy performance and environmental comfort. “Metal components are used throughout the project to help achieve the design’s solar control strategy,” he says. “On the exterior, dramatic overhangs, metal shade structures and metal fins reduce heat gain, while on the interior, perforated metal guardrails diffuse sunlight to reduce glare.”
The project certainly met the aesthetic and durability goals of all involved.
“Working creatively with a simple metal coil and braking it into three custom profiles, we were able to express the project’s kinetic spirit and purpose,” Kranz says. “It isn’t easy to capture movement with static materials, but the panel composition makes the architecture move, in a very provocative way.”