SmithGroup, one of the nation’s leading integrated design firms, celebrates the opening of the University of Houston–Downtown’s (UHD) new Wellness & Success Center, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 20. Designed by SmithGroup in association with HarrisonKornberg Architects and built by Vaughn Construction, the 75,000-square-foot facility creates a welcoming hub for students and establishes a landmark identity for the growing campus.
With its bold architecture, the new Wellness & Success Center helps define the campus vernacular and introduces a hub of services to engage students with campus life. It includes fitness and recreation amenities such as sports courts, a strength training area, cardio and group fitness studios and an elevated track. The center also features a demonstration kitchen where students can cook and learn about nutrition, as well as a student lounge space that is vital to building community on what is largely a commuter campus.
“We’re proud to continue our partnership with the University of Houston System on this student health and success journey, building on the momentum of our Houston office opening last year,” said Clint Menefee, SmithGroup’s Higher Education Studio Leader in Texas. “The new Wellness & Success Center infuses student life into the growing UHD campus and invites the community into a holistic wellness experience.”
Located on the western edge of campus, the selected site is bordered by the White Oak Bayou Greenway to the west, the I-10 interstate expansion project to the north and the existing Sciences & Technology Building to the southeast. The building’s transparent, three-story entrance with a prominent overhang canopy is oriented toward the Bayou Trail—part of the Campus Loop pedestrian route—and Main Street, creating a grand welcoming gesture to campus and rewarding its occupants with outstanding views of the downtown Houston skyline. The three-story volume matches the adjacent College of Sciences & Technology Building and minimizes the building footprint to preserve open space for future expansion.
The three-story lobby leads to a student lounge area with seating for socializing and casual study. It flows into an outdoor terrace that capitalizes on the building’s best downtown views. Students can also prepare food and share a meal in the adjacent community kitchen or find respite in the quiet spaces of the wellness suite.
“The opening of the Wellness & Success Center advances not only student well-being and success at UHD, but also the physical and mental wellness of our faculty, staff, alumni and community members,” said UHD President Loren J. Blanchard. “The Wellness & Success Center will be a game changer in terms of the greater quality and space of exercise facilities and programs that will be available for the University community,” added Richard Sebastiani, UHD Director of Sports and Fitness.
SmithGroup provided integrated design services including architecture in association with HarrisonKornberg Architects, interior architecture, fire protection engineering and MEP engineering for the UHD Wellness & Success Center. Vaughn Construction served as the general contractor. Other key partners included Martinez Moore Engineers as civil and structural engineer; Asakura Robinson as landscape engineer; 4b Technology Group as audio visual designer; SLR International as acoustics designer; and focusEGD as graphics/signage designer.
The UHD Wellness & Success Center is the latest addition to SmithGroup’s extensive portfolio of athletics, recreation and wellness facilities. Recently completed projects include the Texas A&M University Southside Rec Center, San Diego State University Aztec Recreation Center, University of Houston–Clear Lake Recreation and Wellness Center and University of Texas of the Permian Basin D. Kirk Edwards Family Human Performance Center, among others. SmithGroup’s Texas Higher Education team is also currently working on the University of Houston–Victoria Health & Wellness Center, which is scheduled for completion next year.
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