global company perkins&will moves to el paso
Perkins & Will celebrates the completion of its Eastside Regional Recreation Center in Step. In the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, about forty miles from central El Paso, are the Hueco Tanks—an area of clustered rock formations that contain water hollows and petroglyphs dating back to 6000 BC. The colors, shapes and light of the Hueco tanks have inspired human creativity for centuries.
Adding to this rich history, the Dallas studio of Perkins & Will was inspired by the site for El Paso’s new Eastside Regional Recreation Center, now known as “The Beast,” a name chosen by community vote . Located in a rapidly expanding section of the desert, the recreation center and water park is the first component of a 92-acre regional park that is transforming an extreme, high-altitude desert basin into a welcoming oasis for the historically underserved, multi-generational community.
a state-of-the-art recreation center
In order to improve the quality of life of the residents, the city of El Paso committed to the architects at Perkins&Will to spearhead development of the adjacent recreation center local architecture firm, On site. With a population of over 150,000, East El Paso is the fastest growing city in Texas, but also the least developed in terms of community resources, making this project a significant milestone for the community.
The first phase included a state-of-the-art indoor pool, swim center, community center, fitness center, gymnasium and outdoor water park. Based on numerous stakeholder meetings, the designers addressed the community’s need for a haven to escape the heat, creating swimming areas both as a temporary escape from the weather and as an activity that promotes well-being and connectivity.
Response to the natural context
Upon entering the recreation site, guests will encounter a public art exhibit related to Hueco Tanks State Park. Dallas-based artist Brad Goldberg incorporated elements of the environment into the piece, incorporating Palo Verde trees and large granite boulders sculpted into outdoor seating, creating an area of tranquility for guests at the front of the recreation center.
A wide range of local species help conserve irrigation water across the landscape, with grading designed to account for periods of intense rainfall. Arroyos surround the building as a clear reminder of the desert environment.
A large square serves as a common room and gateway to other areas of the center. On the west side of the building is the entrance to the multi-generational community center, constructed from a long-format brick offering a much-needed breakdown of scale for an inviting residential feel. In support of a city-led regional colored lighting initiative, the south facade is illuminated at night, transforming it into a beacon for the neighborhood.
The modulation of the intense, dynamic desert light guided the design concept. The design team has carefully articulated modest materials and created a range of experiences with modest cost impacts throughout the building. Shade structures allow for outdoor activities, relieving from the desert sun and creating a transition between indoors and outdoors.
Lines of sight and connectedness also served as a driving force for the design. Inside, light promotes the vitality of people on the move. The shading structures, sloped-wall concrete, wooden slats, and perforated metal filter light and views throughout the interior in a manner befitting the desert context.
The northern facade panels allow indirect sunlight into the building and relieve the potentially monolithic wall panels. In the indoor swimming pool, a sawtooth-like panel arrangement provides indirect natural light without creating dangerous reflections that could interfere with a lifeguard’s ability to monitor underwater conditions. At night, the south facade is animated with light to support a city-led lighting initiative.
The state-of-the-art swimming pool includes a 50-metre pool suitable for competitions, a 25-metre lap pool and two diving boards (one meter and three metres) with an associated diving fountain. The pool can accommodate up to 400 athletes on the deck and has supporting functions to hold regional competitive swimming events. Ascending to the second floor, guests have access to spectator seats that can accommodate up to 800 people.
Above the spectator seats, acoustic panels in a color palette inspired by the flora of the Hueco tanks help minimize echoes and reverberations. Also on the second floor is a fully equipped fitness center with a running track, a gym with a main basketball court and two side courts for up to 250 people. The outdoor water park is separate from the indoor pool. It includes a wave simulator, a 25-foot water slide, a lazy river, shaded cabanas for rent, and a climbing wall with an attached plunge pool.
Throughout the project, the design team prioritized the health and well-being of its users. The team used energy modeling to optimize HVAC and envelope performance and learned a counterintuitive lesson in the process. By removing the interior insulation and wall paneling at the watersports center and gym, the team freed up budget funds that could then be used for upgraded HVAC systems for overall better energy efficiency.
In addition, the concrete interior surfaces require less maintenance than traditional painted plasterboard. In support of the center’s wellness goals, an efficient method of removing harmful chloramines from the pool air was employed. A continuous evacuation chamber embedded in the pool deck extracts these chloramines. This works in tandem with the surrounding HVAC ductwork by directing air to the evacuators to ensure the air is as clean and healthy as possible.