We’ve known for a long time that the body and mind are interconnected, and that the two should therefore be trained symbiotically. It actually simplifies the job of taking care of ourselves when we see our mental and physical wellbeing as related. In fact, these two sides of ourselves should never be seen as separate. Think of the importance that the ancient Greeks gave to training both the mind and body of the model citizen. And the place this was done was the gymnasium. At first, this was where young people trained for athletic competitions. With time, however, it also became a place for meeting and education. Gymnasiums were used for conferences, lectures, banquets, and even theatrical performances. Then, during the Hellenistic period, they were the center of education for children aged twelve to eighteen.
Today we’re returning to this concept, with sport no longer seen as simply a leisure activity but also as an important aspect of ourselves and our education. Architecturally speaking, the places where sport is played are becoming increasingly integrated into the places where people in our society spend their daily lives. The architects from URBANUS, an architecture firm based in Beijing, are well aware of this trend, with the practice recently completing a major project for the University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China: a full-fledged gymnasium in a mountain setting that blurs the boundaries between sport and leisure.
The new Gymnasium of the South University of Science and Technology is located in a subdistrict of Shenzhen, China. The design, which draws its inspiration from the surrounding mountainous landscape, incorporates areas for a large variety of indoor and outdoor activities. The outdoor space occupies over 75,000 square feet (7000 m2) of level ground, while multilevel platforms, ramps, and bridges crisscross it to create a series of outdoor running paths that imitate hilly trails.
URBANUS has deliberately avoided the closed design of conventional gyms, opting instead to create flexible spaces that allow people to exercise in different ways.
The gymnasium has a huge asymmetrical roof that extends across the mountainside, creating a dynamic appearance and a feeling that the whole complex is floating in midair. A canopy provides shade for visitors in the hot summers, while the large grandstand is supported by a V-shaped concrete structure that leads to a play area. The space under the stands, which has a uniform ceiling height, acts as an informal sports area while also creating an ideal connection between the indoor and outdoor areas. Overall, the structure has a concrete framework while the roof is steel.
Students can move from the outdoor athletics field up to the 14 foot (4.2 m) high platform to watch sporting events. If they keep going up, they come to the 42 foot (12.8 m) high gymnasium, which is surrounded by a steel lattice structure that extends up above the stadium, commented the architects.
An interesting feature of the project is that people are able to watch events on the field while they’re training, therefore enhancing the connection between the different sports facilities. The jogging circuit is 490 feet (150 m) long and leads to a circuit that, in turn, leads outside and into the surrounding mountains.
Project by: URBANUS
Client: South University of Science and Technology Shenzhen
Location: Xili Town, Nanshan district, Shenzhen
Site area: 7.000 mq
Photography by ZTP vision, courtesy of URBANUS