Magazine article Parks & Recreation

High-Tech Rec: A Maryland Community Takes on Public Health Challenges with a LEED Silver-Certified Recreation Facility

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

High-Tech Rec: A Maryland Community Takes on Public Health Challenges with a LEED Silver-Certified Recreation Facility

Article excerpt

Research has shown that low-income minority communities often lack access to quality public facilities, including safe places to be physically active. However, critics can't claim this to be the case in the historically African-American community of Fort Washington, Maryland, where Sorg Architects recently designed the Southern Regional Technology & Recreation Complex for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, setting a new benchmark for similar facilities throughout the region.

National Institutes of Health studies show that limited access to opportunities for physical activity is a risk factor for obesity, which is marginally more likely in low-income communities. Similarly, according to the National Council on Aging, "25 percent of older adults experience some form of anxiety, depression and dementia resulting from declining health, loss of independence and isolation," a trend that is set to double by 2030. The mission of the new 40,000-square-foot, $15 million Tech Rec facility is to improve health and wellness--including social interaction and healthy living--for people of all ages in this community. "Your ZIP code should not determine your health status," says epidemiology and obesity specialist Dr. Adam Drewnowski, "but it does."

Building Design as a Solution For Architect Suman Sorg, a primary goal in the planning and design of Tech Rec was to create an open and inviting space that encourages inclusiveness and fosters intergenerational interaction and connection. A focus on flexibility and multiple options for the use of each space shaped the planning for the complex, which includes a gymnasium, suspended indoor track, climbing wall, workout facilities, group exercise areas, large multipurpose room, professional recording studio, kitchen and classrooms. The building is considered an active and passive learning tool. Recreational spaces are wired to computer labs within the building to promote exercise and aid in educational instruction. The complex also features an expansive green roof with an open viewing gallery and lounge area.

The design of Tech Rec is the result of a process of restraint, leading to the strength and focus of a small number of bold moves. The most evident is the sweeping arc of glass that characterizes its main facade. This multi-colored expanse reflects the surrounding neighborhood and is a testament to the community's significant participation and pride in bringing this project to fruition. To highlight this focal element and to respect the residential context, Sorg's massing strategy shifts taller programmatic volumes, including the gymnasium, to the rear of the site, while the lower-scale concourse is situated facing the street.

In addition, the center was intentionally designed for sustainability, culminating in a LEED-Silver certification that recognizes its efficient planning and execution. …

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