Text description provided by the architects. Elegant and resolute, the Student Development Center (SDC) at Florida Polytechnic University (FPU) in Lakeland, Florida, USA, portrays the creative spirit and interactive vibe of a blooming academic and research community located in an emerging technology corridor. With a form inspired by the student-selected mascot and a material palette aligned with Santiago Calatrava’s signature Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building and original campus master plan, the facility emboldens students, faculty, staff and extended community members to advance their wellness and academic pursuits.
With an architectural program directly linked to the student body, the Student Development Center successfully reflects the dynamic student culture that recently played an active role in the selection and development process of the university’s mascot, the Phoenix. Imagery and connotations of the phoenix are not only emblematic of the university’s research-focused scholastic vision, but also metaphorically symbolize the building’s focus on health and wellness. Exercise activities initiate a phoenix-like “regeneration and renewal” through personal physical fitness during periodic intermissions of academic endeavors. Managing Principal Tim Hoeft, AIA conceived the building’s form as an opportunity to promote institutional brand awareness through a contemporary gesture of architecture parlante, or “speaking architecture”. With a site location on campus with high visibility from an adjacent highway, the building design serves as an outward physical display of school spirit to the greater Central Florida community.
The multi-purpose facility for indoor recreation, outdoor aquatics, and student affairs staff personifies the unique “info-tech” character of the university. Brutalist techtonics delineate an architectural symmetry that echos forms from nature, respectful not only of Calatrava’s immediate context (and work globally), but also characteristic of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work at Florida Southern College just 10 miles (16km) across town. In a biomimic abstraction of aerodynamics, the unconventional butterfly-roof “wings” direct rainwater to celebrated water spouts aimed at landscaped rain gardens adjacent the lap pool. Both exterior form and interior space are expressed as a direct resultant of the cohesive architectural and structural approach. Primary interior spaces are flooded with natural light and are presented with a simple and clear organization. A primary material pallet of concrete, glass, steel, and monochromatic finishes is balanced with natural wood and stone interior accents.
Passive energy savings are captured via a true north/south solar orientation and exaggerated roof overhangs on all sides. The northern façade (including the entry lobby) incorporates strategically located glazing that minimizes direct solar heat gain and glare prevalent in the subtropical climate. Views to the exterior campus are framed to capture views toward the preserved wooded area of grand oaks to the north that offers a place for gathering and passive recreation. The central upper roof is designed to support and shade the 30-foot (9m) (future) rock climbing wall outside the main entry and maximize future opportunities to incorporate photovoltaic panels for on-site renewable solar energy and associated research. Both the building and lap pool’s heating and cooling demand is met through a joint-use open-loop geothermal heat pump (GSHP) system.
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