Award of Merit: Dalhousie University Fitness Centre


The strongly linear fitness centre connects to an existing fieldhouse.
The strongly linear fitness centre connects to an existing fieldhouse.

ARCHITECTS MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (Design Architect) and Fowler Bauld & Mitchell (Architect and Prime Consultant)
LOCATION Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dalhousie University is reimagining its campus wellness program. The University’s goals include a new master plan geared towards state-of-the art facilities, open to all students, and an inclusive, versatile and transparent fitness precinct. Through student financing, the Dalhousie University Fitness Centre is the first step towards this goal. The Fitness Centre is conceived as an inviting linear pavilion that creates a public link between the existing Dalplex Field House, the adjacent campus, and the broader community. The project will be accessible at all points and at all levels. Sustainability is a key priority for the University and for the design team; the project is targeting LEED Gold.

Slots in the floorplate channel light to circulation and activity areas on the first level.
Slots in the floorplate channel light to circulation and activity areas on the
first level.

On the upper floor of the two-level 61,670-square-foot building, fitness programs and multipurpose studios dominate, while primary circulation, entrance, administrative support, showers, change rooms and service spaces can be found on the lower level. The public space connects to the existing Dalplex at its main entry point, clarifying and expanding public access to the entire fitness and wellness campus.

The site slopes dramatically from east to west, and from north to south. Dalplex, the University’s principal athletic facility, occupies the southeast corner of the site. The Fitness Centre mediates the grade change between South Street and the level of the existing fieldhouse. The sidewalk area on South Street is widened, incorporating low retaining walls, informal seating, and a generous landscaped topography to ameliorate the slope between the new building and the street. A landscape of native species serves as stormwater retention and provides a lush foreground for the facility.

A generous entry plaza includes covered space for outdoor sports and gatherings, flanked by stair-like bleachers.
A generous entry plaza includes covered space for outdoor sports and gatherings, flanked by stair-like bleachers.

A luminous open volume, the upper pavilion level is nonetheless respectful of the modest scale of the adjacent residential neighbourhood. The pavilion bridges across an entrance court, its span creating 7,500 square feet of sheltered exterior space. This active entrance plaza provides the campus with much-needed exterior covered assembly space for student gatherings, outdoor events and games. This space is formed by sculpted concrete retaining walls, providing informal spectator seating, bike parking and storage for active programming. The plaza opens onto a landscaped forecourt located between the new facility and the existing fieldhouse. The lower level, situated in a substantial excavation of native bedrock, negotiates between its position as subterranean space at the north and an open transparent connection to the existing Dalplex to the south. Its walls are board-formed concrete, rising from the excavation to meet the luminous upper level.

The principal street elevation of the facility presents a long, low façade that varies in height above the sidewalk elevation, in keeping with the residential scale of the street. Laminated Douglas fir columns, set against a finer-grained backdrop of a wood-slat ceiling system, form the profile and rhythm of the elevation. The interplay between structure and finish is visible through floor-to-parapet glazing. A hybrid of structure and envelope, the perimeter wood columns support the roof structure, the glazing system and a bladed solar-shading system on the north and south elevations. The overall effect is of a ribbed wood vessel that both reveals and screens interior activity.


EG: The relationship between the sloping street and the horizontal bar opens up an interesting possibility to expand the public realm beneath the building at its extremity and link it with the playing fields.

MG: I really admire the façade and the highly repetitive, very clear diagram of the building; it will be really lovely to be inside. Given its simplicity and enormous scale, this building will need to be extremely refined in its technical resolution.

TS: There is a monumentality achieved by the simplicity of this form, set within a strong linear bar scheme. As the architect further develops a concept that is this simple, the project’s success will be reliant upon a fine resolution of each and every detail.

Client Dalhousie University
Architect Team MJMA—David Miller, Viktors Jaunkalns, Andrew Filarksi, Robert Allen, Ted Watson, Marc Downing, Cathy McMahon, Jay Martin, Farhan Durrani, Timothy Belanger, Darlene Montgomery, Tarisha Dolyniuk, Jason Wah. FBM—George Cotaras, Wayne Duncan.
Structural/Mechanical/Electrical/Civil CBCL Limited
Landscape MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects and CBCL Limited
Interiors MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects and Fowler Bauld & Mitchell
Sustainability/LEED Solterre Design
Acoustics Swallow Acoustic Consultants Ltd.
Code RJ Bartlett Engineering Ltd.
Needs Assessment and Functional Planning Educational Consulting Services (ECS)
Business and Operational Planning JF Group
Area 61,500 ft2
Budget withheld
Completion Fall 2016