Sports facilities such as gymnasiums and swimming pools are typically stand-alone spaces inserted into school campuses. Their substantial singular volumes contrast with other academic buildings formed by smaller and repetitive learning units. These “black boxes” are difficult to relate to other buildings architecturally because of their size and hermetic character. However, we strive to break free the norm of this building type by creating a “transparent” sports facility so that Kaohsiung American School’s educational goal, balanced curriculum, is visually understood as the athletic addition connects to the academic and art buildings already completed in Phase I construction project.
We align the athletic complex to the height of adjacent elementary school building by lowering the double-height swimming pool space halfway below the grade while we create a layered transparency on grade that horizontally penetrates the lobby, weight room, dance studio, the double-height pool space, student dining hall and the soccer field outside the complex. The visual linkage of all these spaces not only interconnects them but also invokes a sense of surprise, a paradoxical feeling generated by walking into a normal-height lobby and then immediately having one’s visual field expanded through the floor-to-ceiling glass panels and over the double-height pool space. The V-shaped steel structure supports the gymnasium above the pool space as if floating above it. The tall ribbon windows started from the base at the gym floor also optically join the inside of the gym to the broader soccer field outside, creating a visual panorama unique to the sports building type. The energy of the students playing inside the gymnasium is no longer isolated, but it is seen and coupled with other activities going on in the campus.
The pool space is treated with cool tone color materials such as architectural concrete, glass, glazed tiles and blue paint to be in concert with water in the pool. The ceiling of the swimming pool absorbs the sound while other surfaces reflect, allowing the sound of water to reverberate deliberately inside the space. The tall ribbon windows lining the ceiling introduce the natural light horizontally at the top so that the full sensory range of light to darkness plays out along the cross-section of the pool space. In contrast, the gymnasium above is treated with warm tone color materials such as unpainted acoustic wood fiber cement boards at both ceiling and walls, maple wood gym flooring and white steel structural components, echoing the body energy and heat generated by the sports activities. The copious acoustic treatment absorbs the staccato sounds of bouncing balls and rubbing shoes, leaving the acoustics crystal clear and direct.
The swimming pool is designed with a movable floor platform made of stainless steel framing and fitted with buoyancy packs, completed with a paneled fiberglass top deck. The movable platform is pulled down hydraulically to its desired depth from 0 to 200 centimeters, using a stainless steel cable and pulley system located underneath the pool floor. The soccer field is composed of artificial turf with natural cork infill, replacing more common crumb rubber infill. The athletic complex achieves LEED 2009 for Schools Gold certification.