Free Project Support from WoodWorks – Learn more
Inspired by the beauty of the pastoral landscape, the concept for the Warlick Family YMCA is driven by 2 big ideas: Creating a Hearth that brings the community together to facilitate deep connections, and intertwining every moment in the facility with the adjacent serene Robinwood Lake. The power of this project’s design lies in the simple and purposeful organization of its complex programmatic components, turning them from an interior-focused exercise facility to an outdoor-focused ‘home’ for Gastonia’s community that emphasizes wellness, transparency, and warmth while creating a holistic environment for the community to unite, be healthy, linger and learn.
Supporting AIA’s National Initiative ‘The Blueprint for Better Communities’, the design of this campus uses architecture as an agent of social change. The client’s goal was to improve community connections through a truly welcoming environment that is driven by the concepts of unity, coalescing, and wellness. Going way beyond your typical YMCA, Exercising and health is only part of this YMCA’s mission. The leaders wanted a place that would stitch the community together, a campus that would allow families to connect, linger, care for each other, and support opportunities for multigenerational interactions. They envisioned a place to hold weddings, dances, graduations, and other important family and community events; a true backdrop for all the milestones in our lives.
The design of the project solved this challenge by proposing a Hearth, a warm and open environment at the core of the project, in the crux of all circulation patterns in the building. The Hearth becomes the place to linger, to sit and connect, to see and be seen, and is in direct view of the pastoral Robinwood Lake. A porch dotted with rocking chairs facing the lake invites the community to relax, observe and engage in dialogue, a return to southern roots and away from technology.
The siting of the building emphasizes a strong relationship with the Lake. Whether working out, sitting with a friend, swimming in the natatorium, learning new healthy cooking methods in the demonstration kitchen, having a senior game of cards, or doing Yoga, patrons are constantly intertwined with lake views. Since the property includes the whole lake and its shore, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, attending mass in the chapel, learning canoeing, sunbathing at the sandy beach, playing volleyball and overnight camping are all activities that can be enjoyed there.
The exterior materials were selected to emphasize warmth, a welcoming environment, and transparency. The masonry ties back to Gastonia’s original Mill buildings, the glass glows at night, and reflects the magnificent surrounding landscape. The wood glulam girders and wood composite soffits are reminiscent of a ‘treehouse in the woods’ and are befitting of the lakeside setting.
Interior-wise, the simple circulation diagram of this building is designed for clarity: All programmatic elements are stitched with this linear spine, and transparency allows every space to connect back to the spine. A tremendous effort was conducted to allow every space to connect to the outdoors, whether the lake, the trees, or the surrounding playing fields. This layering of glass and spaces allows the facility to support Well building principles: biophilia-through connectivity to the outdoors and the warm wood and stone materials, plentiful daylight into all rooms, views from all spaces to the site, encouragement of vertical movement through open and inviting stairwells, use of smart environmental graphics for easy navigation throughout the building, spaces for community connections to reduce isolation and prevent mental strain, and offering healthy snacks are all among the many strategies.
Lots of color and branded graphics make the space vibrant and happy, with a clear sense of orientation and simplicity. Finally, the calming and soothing sunsets make this facility a place that the community can proudly call their ‘Hearth’ where bonds and friendships will be created, and memories passed onto future generations.
Mass Timber, Glue-Laminated Timber (GLT or glulam), Heavy Timber Decking, Hybrid (wood with steel or concrete), Wood structural panels
Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Inc.
Haas & Kennedy, P.A.
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP), and Fire Protection Engineer