Sneak Peek: The Barnes Center at The Arch


In the January/February print issue of Campus Rec Magazine, we are highlighting how the new Barnes Center at The Arch is creating a central wellness hub for students on the Syracuse University campus. Here, we give you a sneak peek of how it came to be from Megan Rand, an architect and associate at Populous and Syracuse University alumna who worked on the project.

As an architect, Rand has received many requests when working with campus rec centers, but following the trends of 2019, some requests have been more popular than others.

“The most popular requests we receive from directors is to create spaces that allow flexibility for everything from table-tennis, climbing walls, swim cinemas, pet therapy, high-intensity interval training studios, dance studios, esports, etc.,” said Rand. “The most prevalent trend is not just about physical recreation and intramural sports, but also health and wellness activities such as pet therapy, peer education, meditation, and primary health care, integrated with recreation to create a facility where students find the support they need to thrive and succeed.”

Because of these trends, the Barnes Center at The Arch features many of these amenities, such as a pet therapy room. “The Walters Pet Therapy room is a space to de-stress and enjoy the health benefits of the human-animal emotional bond through friendly, calm interactions with a therapy dog,” described Rand. “The space includes comfortable, casual seating that facilitates interactions with the volunteer pets, and features a large glass wall for views to the central lobby of the wellness space.”

In addition to a pet therapy room, the new building has also adopted the growing trend of esports with a specifically designed space to support individual, six-person team competition and casual group use.

“The esports room is fitted with the latest technology in consoles and games, including a fully flexible infrastructure where all audio-visual feeds and electrical conduits are distributed neatly under a raised access computer floor system,” said Rand. “The space also includes large storefront windows tinted Syracuse orange with colorful accent lighting to add to the gaming experience for this highly popular intramural activity.”

On the outside, one of the goals of the new building was to restore the exterior design elements to match that of the original Archbold Gymnasium completed in 1908. This was achieved by keeping the northern portion as the only surviving part of the original building.

“Along with 14 other campus buildings of similar vintage, it composes the ‘Comstock Tract’ which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” explained Rand. “Therefore, it was imperative to respect the neo-classical exterior design of the original Archbold Gymnasium, both in renovation to the existing north façades of the building, and in creating a new contemporary yet complementary design for the recreation center.”

Additionally, Rand described how several locations incorporated original brick and terracotta salvaged from small areas where selective demolition was necessary. “These materials were reused, when possible, in places where changes to the 1908 construction were most visible to viewers,” she said. “In other areas, achieving an exact match of the original materials was impossible, so materials with very similar colors and textures were used, especially at a great distance from most viewers.”

If you’re considering a renovation of an older space, Rand emphasized the ability to repurpose and rebuild for the benefit of all in a campus community. “Older gymnasium spaces with architectural character can be repurposed to serve as large group exercise spaces, or divided vertically to almost double usable floor space,” she said. “While a single basketball court might allow 10 users at one time, a repurposed gym can support many times that number of users.”

Brittany Howard
Brittany is an assistant editor at Peake Media. Reach her at

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