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Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Shared By

Symone Garvett

Project Name

Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center


Project Status


Year Completed



66,000 sq. feet


Washington University in St. Louis


  • Other: Hastings & Chivetta Architects, Inc.
  • Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineer: Buro Happold Consulting Engineers PC
  • Mechanical Engineer: McClure Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: DTLS
  • Civil Engineer: Cole & Associates
  • Kiku Obata + Company
  • Lighting Designer: Randy Burkett Lighting

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Project Description


The new Sumers Recreation Center, once the venue for the 1904 Olympic games, preserves the original gym facade and revitalizes its interiors. This was accomplished through the removal of preexisting half-level floors, revealing a dramatic three-story space navigated by an entrance bridge welcoming visitors inside and offering views of the activities taking place within the open, sky-lit building. Newly inserted floor plates align with the existing athletics complex to create a seamless transition between spaces, as well as direct connections to the nearby landscape and playing fields.

"WashU is a campus shaped by venerable buildings consisting of granite, limestone and brick, and we certainly wished to honor that tradition," says Tom Kirk, Design Principal from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's Philadelphia office. "We desired to contrast the exterior with a light-filled, delicately detailed, and highly-transparent recreation center that welcomes visitors and enhances their everyday experience."

The Sumers Recreation Center is located on a prominent pedestrian axis, known as William Greenleaf Eliot Way, which stretches from the University's distinguished Graham Chapel to the old Francis Gymnasium archway. By reopening the archway, which was shuttered as part of a 1980s expansion project, the Sumers Recreation Center reestablishes the centrality of Eliot Way, leading visitors from the heart of campus and into a state-of-art fitness facility, adjacent wellness and recreation suites, multipurpose rooms, a spinning facility, café and lounge.

"The new complex is awe inspiring, and the faces of visitors light up when they enter the building," describes Associate Vice Chancellor and University Architect James Kolker. "The building is filled with light, transparency, energy and beautifully detailed materials that together creates a new model for architectural expression within our historic context."
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