Hill Center

Location:  Ithaca, NY

Completed:  January 2014

Program:  Gymnasiums, Athletic Training rooms, Classrooms, Offices, Labs

Construction Type:  Addition + Renovation

Awards:  2014 AIACNY Architecture Citation for Design

The renovation of Hill Center at Ithaca College began as an extensive series of studies, aimed at a complete understanding of what the best course of action would be to serve the multitude of user groups that called Hill Center home. A driving factor in the scale of Hill Center is the four full size gymnasiums on the upper floor, which serve gymnastics, wrestling, badminton, volleyball, and basketball, for club, recreation and NCAA athletics programs. The floors, bleachers and equipment were all at the end of their useful life and needed to be replaced. In addition there were strength training, dance, and related academic programs of athletic training, that all needed improved facilities. There was also a bevy of coach and faculty offices, classrooms and labs, and large locker room facilities. Every space needed improvement and expansion, but ultimately the decision was made to renovate the existing building in place, with minimal additions.

To combat this space crisis without expanding the building, an outdated and rarely utilized pool was removed, and in its place a state-of-the-art athletic training suite was created, which includes an expansive treatment area, dedicated classrooms, offices, physician’s exam room, and hydrotherapy facilities. Above that previous pool deck level, a new floor was inserted, creating space for a multipurpose space with operable partition, and large classroom and lecture spaces. Under what had been site cast concrete bleachers for the pool between the two levels, a new dividable classroom space was created. All of this new academic space will ease scheduling conflicts that had plagued this building, which had classes scheduled form 8am to 11pm previously, and club and rec sports programs almost around the clock.

Beyond the drastic need for more space, another large driving factor for the renovation was reduction in energy consumption. Electrical systems were updated and new lighting is largely LED tied to daylight and occupancy sensors. A new rainscreen system was designed for the building’s exterior, adding three inches of insulation to the envelope. The new façade treatment has another benefit; it covers what was widely regarded as an extremely unattractive façade of massive planes of clinker brick and spalling concrete. New expanses of glass allow natural light to penetrate deep into the new spaces and allow dramatic views out across the campus’ iconic fountains and down South Hill to Cayuga Lake. The material palate of crisply folded metal panels and phenolic/natural timber panels on the exterior and light wood tones, “Ithaca Blue” and slabs of local natural bluestone inside, set a tone consistent with other new buildings on campus, and provide a new clean aesthetic for Hill Center.

The most dramatic change to the building is the new entry tower along the north quad. A previously adopted campus masterplan called for a series of glassy towers to mark the way along the campus’ longitudinal axis of quads. As the most widely used building on campus, it was important that Hill Center receive one of these towers to mark its significance, and provide a more welcoming entrance than the intimidating windowless concrete prow that existed. Besides acting as glowing, transparent beacon to students, it also houses a new folded plate steel stair with bluestone slab treads that clarifies a once ambiguous building circulation route, and a new elevator for accessibility. The large size of the tower was broken down at the entry vestibule with a crisp white cube designed at “human scale” to provide a more intimate entrance to the building.