The University of Houston Downtown (UHD) celebrated the opening of its new Wellness and Success Center on January 20, 2023. Designed by SmithGroup in association with HarrisonKornberg Architects and built by Vaughn Construction, the 75,000-square-foot facility created a welcoming hub for students and is a landmark identity for the growing campus.
One of the stand-out features of the new center is its emphasis on bold architecture and how it’s introducing a hub of services to engage students. Clint Menefee, SmithGroup’s higher education studio leader in Texas, said the bold architecture stands out as soon as you look at the building. “From the exterior, you’ll notice the front of the building seems to peel away layers and visually reveals the programming from within,” he described. “We had to be careful about shading, but we really wanted to put some of those prime activities on display.”
So, inside the Wellness and Success Center students can enjoy:
- Indoor and outdoor functional training areas with the inside outfitted with Marathon Fitness and Technogym equipment and outdoor equipment provided by KOMPAN.
- A bouldering wall.
- Three exercise class studios.
- A 1/9-mile indoor running track.
- Three personal training and massage therapy rooms.
- Expanded locker rooms.
- Student lounge space.
- A demonstration kitchen that spills out into a covered outdoor space.
- Three sports courts.
As a university that doesn’t have intercollegiate athletics, Menefee added having the three courts was a must for the project. Both club sports and intramurals have very strong participation on campus.
EXTRA CREDIT: Read about other new builds and renovations here.
While bold architecture plays a part in engaging the campus community, the location of the center takes it a step further and puts the university on display for the entire downtown community as well.
Located on the western edge of the UHD campus, the new center is bordered by the White Oak Bayou Greenway to the west and an interstate expansion project to the north. However, the building’s transparent, three-story entrance with an overhang canopy is oriented toward the Bayou Trail — part of the campus loop pedestrian route — and Main Street. The location creates a grand welcoming gesture to campus. In addition, it provides those inside with outstanding views of the downtown Houston skyline.
Menefee shared the project itself was very challenging. Houston has major flood concerns being just inside the Gulf of Mexico and the new center sat adjacent to the bayou. For that reason, he explained the decision was made to raise the building to help mitigate flood risk. That choice did two things:
- It helped build resiliency.
- It enabled the Wellness and Success Center to utilize the valuable property and downtown views.
“The building is really changing the culture on campus,” said Menefee. “Just having a place to be for a variety of purposes in a healthy environment appears like it’s going to be a serious game changer for the campus and the student experience.”