San Diego State University – Aztec Recreation Center

  • area / size 134,000 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • SmithGroup completed the Aztec Recreation Center for San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

    SmithGroup designed the expanded and renovated Aztec Recreation Center at San Diego State University to reflect the voice and needs of the Associated Students, prioritizing a wide range of student wellness activities and high sustainability goals.

    As campuses across the nation turn to holistic wellness to support the needs of their students, San Diego State University (SDSU) sought to expand its Aztec Recreation Center (ARC) physically to meet the rising demand of their campus in both space and support offerings. SmithGroup’s design for the renovation and expansion doubles the size of the ARC, which serves as a new student hub on the west side of campus. The front entrance is set back to form a plaza, supporting outdoor programming and facilitating large crowds at the adjacent Viejas Arena.

    Located between the Mission-style historic center of campus and the modern athletic and recreation department buildings, the ARC connects new to old through its form and material palette. The design uses clean and simple forms in relation to its immediate context which are clad in plaster, terracotta and glass to tie to the legacy of central campus.

    From the entrance, an organizing spine called “The Canyon” extends from the new expansion through to newly renovated multi-purpose courts. Fitness studios, yoga rooms and spinning spaces are directly connected to the Canyon creating a vibrant and active space for student wellness. Natural light is brought in along this spine through clerestory glazing. A 40-foot climbing wall, integrated along the Canyon, encourages students to explore new forms of fitness. A food venue serves healthy and organic fare, while multi-purpose rooms allow ARC staff to support the broad wellness needs of the growing campus. In addition, the ARC incorporates lounges and spaces for socializing, relaxing and studying both inside and throughout the adjacent outdoor plaza.

    The design integrates optimal performance as the facility achieved a LEED Platinum certification. Innovative systems for energy and water efficiency include shower wastewater energy recovery, a geothermal heat pump system for classrooms and mixed-mode natural ventilation. Wood ceiling elements are integrated into the scheme and used extensively on the second and third levels to create a more nature-inspired environment for exercise and fitness training.

    With an architecture that simultaneously provides openness and moments for introspection, the ARC goes to show that a gym is no longer just a place to work out, but one part of the greater circle of holistic health that includes social, emotional, occupational, multicultural, environmental, spiritual and intellectual aspects of student and community life. By sharing this balanced approach to health among a diverse student body, the act of learning moves beyond the confines of a seminar room and into the spaces shared communally.

    Design: SmithGroup
    Photography: Wade Griffith, Pink Media Productions